ACT Government back flips on office block plan

THE ACT Government has made a drastic back flip on its plan for a $432 million office block, announcing today they will instead pump the  funds earmarked for the project into public health.

The back flip was welcomed by the Property Council ACT with executive director Catherine Carter saying: “While the property industry has always been supportive of the ACT public service being centrally located in better quality accommodation, there were concerns about the delivery model initially proposed by the ACT Government.

“As the Property Council has previously pointed out, it is highly unusual for governments, including the Commonwealth, to build, own and manage their own office buildings.

“This is also generally true for large banks, mining companies and other corporates. The simple reason for this is that it is not core business for governments and major companies, and experience has found that the property sector can deliver better, more cost efficient outcomes.”

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the additional funding will be devoted to new health infrastructure including the new sub-acute hospital.

“These are uncertain economic times, and while I am confident that the ACT economy is strong and can withstand many of the current global pressures, the Government’s budget position has been affected by the global economic uncertainty, and lower than forecast revenues,” Chief Minister Gallagher said.

“Therefore, we believe it is right to prioritise the delivery of health services to Canberrans over owning an office block.”

Deputy Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr said the Government determined last August that it would market test the delivery of new office accommodation in Gungahlin and Civic.

“The Government’s immediate priority is the delivery of the Gungahlin office project and we have received nine registrations of interest from the development sector to build offices – both on our land and developer’s own land – and we are aiming to start building in the 2012-13 financial year,” Mr Barr said.

“Following the success of the Gungahlin process, we will work with the property sector to secure new or renewed office space in Civic for about 3000 ACT Government employees.”

Mr Barr said the Government will invite the property sector to submit proposals that meet the accommodation needs identified through the project work to date.

He said this could include adaptive re-use of buildings, campus-style accommodation, construction of a new building or combinations of the above.

The accommodation will be required to be at the same standard as the Commonwealth Government mandates for its employees.

“As an employer, the ACT Government has a responsibility to ensure our staff are accommodated in safe and appropriate accommodation, and much of our current rental and owned stock is rundown and below Australian standards,” Mr Barr said.

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