north sydney olympic pool

After months of complaints from locals, North Sydney Council has called for an independent review of its management of the North  Sydney Olympic Pool redevelopment to ensure the project remains on track. 

Mayor Zoë Baker said Council would appoint a suitably qualified consultant to review Council’s management of the North Sydney Olympic Pool project including its governance structure and financing model. The review has been prompted by delays and cost variations created by a range of  factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme rain events associated with La Nina. 

“It is no secret that during the last term of Council, I (with Cr Beregi and former Cr Carr)  consistently opposed the design, scale and cost of the North Sydney Olympic Pool redevelopment and particularly the significant $30 million in borrowings for the $63.8  million project,” Cr Baker said. 

Above: An artist’s impression of the proposed new design for the pool (left) and a current photo showing progress to date (right). Source: North Sydney Council

“It is now clear that we are running over time and budget. This new Council inherited the project and is legally bound to deliver the project in its current form. I know the new  councillors share the concerns and we believe we need a fresh set of eyes to help us chart  the best path for the future and ensure we get the best possible outcomes for our  community.” 

Work began on site in March last year with an original completion date of November 2022.  The Covid-19 pandemic shutdown last year and the ongoing disruption caused by shortages  in staff and building materials delayed work for 22 days. The extreme rain events associated with La Nina accounted for a further 59 days and the discovery of hazardous materials on site, including asbestos, held work up for 38 days.  

A further 47 days delay has come due to the need for design clarifications as a result of the complex nature of the project. The completion date was revised to July 2023, but may now be later. 

north sydney olympic pool
Historic site: Crowds enjoy a swim in 1956. Photo by J. Fitzpatrick

Mayor Baker said the Council was also expecting the work to cost more than the $63.8  million approved by Council. A number of factors are affecting the budget including: 

  • the increased cost of building materials, which has been well publicised and  affected major projects across Australia; 
  • the costs associated with delays, which are being shared by Council and the  contractor; and 
  • the project contract which allows for variations. This is not uncommon in the construction industry and Council’s budget allowed for a contingency, but this will  not be sufficient.

Cr Baker said the Council would not pre-empt the independent review by guessing at new timeframes or costs.  

“It is not helpful to speculate and we will be making no further comment until the review is  complete. In the meantime, we have established a new focused steering committee with  appropriate project and financial expertise which is providing a progress report to Council  each month. 

“A probity advisor has also been appointed who will be independent of the steering  committee and report directly to Council’s Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee each  quarter. I have also asked Council’s Acting General Manager to explore how we can best  fund any increase in costs.”  

Cr Baker said the review was not a reflection on the building contractor or the quality of their work. “Council wants to review our role in relation to this project to ensure we have  the best possible support and structures in place for the remainder of the work. 

“We know how important the North Sydney Olympic Pool is to our community and we are  morally obliged to deliver the project to an exceptionally high standard and as quickly as  possible so that our community can have access once again.”

Main image: Places We Swim

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