Manly Council's plan for a car park under Manly oval has taken a hit after the Office of Local Government raised seven major issues for the Council to address.
The Office has just released its initial assessment of the Council's capital expenditure plan for the $34M car park. It lists seven major concerns about the plan, which is already questioned by the Manly Chamber of Commerce, and opposed by all of Manly's precinct groups, a growing number of Manly residents and the four independent (out of nine in total) Manly councillors.
Council is required to respond to seven key issues before the Office can complete its assessment. They are:
1. Geotechnical risk. Council's claim that building the car park - a multi story structure under Manly's heritage oval and in an area known to flood after heavy rain - is a low risk enterprise. The Office notes that the Council's own technical report does not support that claim, based on initial geotechnical work.
2. The car park operating costs. The Council has been criticised for not taking these costs into account, as required in plans of this nature. This tallies with concern by residents and independent Manly councillors, who note that Council's one underground car park - in Wentworth St - is by far the most expensive of its four car parks to maintain. This contrasts with the Whistler St car park - slated to be pulled down - which is cheap to maintain and brings in $700,000 a year.
3. Interest rate assumptions. The Office questions Council calculations, which are based on an unchanging rate of interest of 4.3%. This is despite the fact that the rate is floating, not fixed, and the term of the loan runs for 50 years. The Manly Chamber of Commerce has already questioned this claim - understood by them as "an average cost of funds of 5% over the life of the project"-
4. Public support. The Office of Local Government didn't buy the Council's claim that Manly residents were right behind the car park plan. "It is apparent to the Office that there is a growing level of community concern and opposition to this project", it wrote. That's no surprise to the 400+ Manly residents who recently attended a Car Park opposition public meeting, or to Local MP and State Treasurer Mike Baird who has publicly aired his own concerns about the car park project.
5. Project management expertise. The Office also didn't believe the Council's claim that it was experienced at managing large projects, noting that previous Council projects have not been as large or as complex as the oval car park. Residents, who remember Manly Council's recent botched job of repaving the Corso, would agree.
6. Cost to fix Whistler St Car Park. The Council has been asked to explain its wildly varying estimates for this job. Council says $5M is needed to fix the car park, and gives this figure as a reason for pulling it down and building under Manly oval instead. But the Office points to the Council's own 2012/13 financial reports, where the car park is listed as being in "average" condition and "requiring no maintenance expenditure".
7. The sale of Whistler St Car Park. The Council was criticised for not taking into account the risk of the sale not going through.
While the Office of Local Government does not have the power to stop Manly Council going ahead with the oval car park plan, Mayor Jean Hay is on the record as saying she won't proceed unless the plan is assessed as financially viable.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.