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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Council reveals cost of relocation to Newcastle West

City of Newcastle’s decision to spend $8.3 million on the relocation of 450 staff to a new administration centre is evidence of its “frugal approach”, the council’s chief executive, Jeremy Bath, says.

The council announced today it could reveal to the public the total cost of its move to the premises at 12 Stewart Avenue, Newcastle West, after closing out all four associated projects.

Its figures show an overall cost of $17.6 million, which included: office space for 450 staff ($8,389,994), a Local Emergency Operations Centre, known as LEOC ($2,173,982), a digital library ($3,267,465), a council chamber ($1,041,824), and contracts ($2,749,827).

Mr Bath believes the council’s relocation – its first modernisation in more than 40 years – compares favourably to nearby projects.

“Lake Macquarie City Council is spending $17.8 million on its fit-out, Mid Coast Council has budgeted $20 million, and Maitland’s project is budgeted at $28 million,” he said.  

“The $8.3 million spent on our relocation is evidence of the frugal approach we have taken, while the move itself also allowed us to identify cost effective co-locatable opportunities, such as the Digital Library and LEOC, which, if built elsewhere, would have come at a considerably larger expense.” 

Mr Bath adds the relocation paved the way for the revitalisation of the Civic cultural precinct and the sale of properties, including the Roundhouse and the Frederick Ash Building. 

The Roundhouse, which previously housed some of the council’s administration staff, was sold to Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud for $16.5 million in 2018.

The former council administration centre has been renamed the ‘Kingsley’ and is expected to reopen in early 2021.

Renamed the Kingsley, it is set to reopen in early 2021 as the city’s first five-star hotel.

“The sale of these buildings has allowed us to direct significantly more funds into projects that benefit the community, with the $16.5 million proceeds from the Roundhouse going directly towards our record $116 million program of upgrading and improving key community assets,” Mr Bath said. 

“Another $9.5 million from the sale of three properties, including the Frederick Ash building, is being used to part fund the much-needed restoration of the Newcastle Ocean Baths, with the first stage upgrade to the pools and lower promenade starting next year.”  

The council stated its decision to relocate was in keeping with its own long held plans and aligned with the NSW Government’s priorities to shift the CBD west as part of the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan.

Mr Bath believes the new premises has resulted in a better work environment, more efficient systems, greater flexibility, and improved staff culture, providing an improved service for residents and ratepayers.

“Relocating our City Administration Centre to Newcastle West has provided our staff with a new fit-for-purpose office featuring modern amenities, a flexible design, community areas, and meeting rooms to encourage better communication and collaborative decision-making,” he said.