In January 2021 we completed a project to consolidate our administration functions into a central location at 2 Biripi Way, Taree.
The new head office, Yalawanyi Ganya provides space for 350 administrative staff, as well as a customer service centre, Council Chambers, and room for future growth.
A financing strategy, adopted by Council, made it clear there were no increase of rates to pay for the move, and operational funds would not be impacted.
Establishing a head office for MidCoast Council
As part of our aim to deliver further efficiencies and streamline our operations, we decided to consolidate our administrative functions in Taree and Forster into one single location at the the former Masters building on Biripi Way, Taree.
We purchased the site in December 2017 as an opportunity to gain efficiencies by centralising 350 staff currently located across three sites in Taree and Forster.
In making the decision to consolidate administrative functions into a single head office site, investigations were undertaken into the option of refurbishing our existing buildings to establish a campus model, where staff would be moved to bring teams together.
Modelling indicated that in the long term we will deliver lower operating costs and greater efficiencies to our community as a result of a centralised office arrangement.
Consolidating administrative functions into a single head office site, just as most large organisations do, not only makes good commercial sense but provides a space that caters for the needs of our community into the future.
Our administration was currently spread across three different buildings, with an average age of 37 years. Looking towards a future of sustainable growth for the region, moving to one head office ensures we are leading change in our community while continuing to provide essential services, more efficiently, for our residents and ratepayers.
How was the move be funded?
The financing strategy identified funding from three sources:
- Cash reserves - $7.2 million
- Sale of property assets - $4.8 million
- Borrowings - $8 million, with repayments to be funded through the rental income gained from the currently used administration offices in Taree and Forster
Where can I find out more?
Download and read the fact sheet located on this project page.
Or head to the Documentation Hub where you'll find a detailed documentation relating to the processes undertaken for the project.
information on Yalawanyi Ganya project
Click through the sections below to find out the background to the decision to undertake the project, the history and project updates.
Biripi Way is situated in Taree South just off Manning River Drive, and is known as the site of the former Masters retail outlet.
Operating and maintaining a single head office location was determined to be significantly more cost-effective than operating across multiple sites. The three buildings that were in use prior to moving to Yalawanyi Ganya were older, required repair and needed to be repurposed to be able to meet the needs of the organisation.
The campus model
The cost to establish a campus model to meet our needs was estimated at $12.9 million, plus ongoing maintenance costs. This model also presented the following issues:
- Teams spread across numerous buildings
- Complicated, inefficient floor plans and fitout
- Limited room to house current staff, or allow for future growth
- High immediate and on-going maintenance requirements
- Limited parking for council and customer vehicles
- High overheads, such as energy, insurance and security
- Inefficient sharing of electronic information between offices due to poor connectivity
- Costs and time associated with staff travel between offices
The financing proposal to design and fitout a head office at Biripi Way, Taree, outlined a funding requirement of $20 million. This compared favourably with relocation projects undertaken, or in progress, by other large organisations and councils such as City of Greater Geelong, Yarra Ranges and Shellharbour.
The benefits of a single site model include:
- Improved collaboration for more efficient service delivery
- Streamlined and consistent processes
- Reduced operating costs
- Reduced maintenance costs
- Opportunity to reduce council’s carbon footprint
- Reduced travel time and improved staff productivity
- A modern facility suitable for future growth
- Incorporates one of five customer service centres, with over-the-counter customer service retained in all existing localities including Forster, Taree, Tea Gardens, Gloucester and Stroud
The business case, first prepared in January 2018 included a cost benefit analysis. The cost benefit analysis was revised in October 2018 to take into account more conservative property valuations for the Council administration buildings in Forster and Taree. The intention behind the revision was to assess the impact of lower property values on the overall outcome of the analysis. The more conservative property valuations do have an impact on the cost benefit analysis, however as the revised tables and conclusion in the report show, it still results in a positive assessment and strongly favours the single site option.
A further cost benefit analysis was undertaken early in 2019 and following this the financing strategy for the single site model was endorsed at the April 2019 Council meeting when Council approved the project to proceed to the design and construct phase.
A financing strategy to fund the $20 million head office relocation was prepared, and the subject of community consultation during November-December 2018. The financing strategy was endorsed at the April 2019 Council meeting when Council approved the project to proceed to the design and construct phase.
The financing strategy was designed so it does not impact on funding for our day-to-day operations, or your rates, and identifies funding from three sources:
- Cash reserves (savings realised through the merger) - $7.2 million
- Sale of property assets - $4.8 million
- Borrowings - $8 million, with repayments funded through rental income on property assets
The financing strategy makes it clear that:
- There will be no special rate variation required for this project
- There will be no impact on operational funds such as the $100 million road program and capital works and maintenance programs for Council assets, which will continue to be delivered to our community as planned.
We will also work with both Federal and State Government bodies to identify opportunities for financial contributions to the project. Any funding received would reduce the level of loan funds required.
- January 2021 – staff move into the building and doors open to the community
- December 2020 - Construction on the project is completed and staff are preparing to move into the new facility in January 2021.
- October 2020 - Councillors resolve to name the building Yalawanyi Ganya – which means meeting place in Gathang, the language of the Biripi and Worimi people of the MidCoast. This decision is made to recognise the importance of the Aboriginal people and culture to the MidCoast and to support the re-emergence of the Gathang language.
- 11 May 2020 - Work begins on site.
- 25 March 2020 - Council resolved to enter into negotiations with the preferred tenderer AW Edwards Pty Ltd with a view to award a contract for the conversion of the building into Council’s head office.
- 24 February 2020 - The Hunter Central Coast Regional Planning Panel approved MidCoast Council’s development application for a centralised Council administration office in the former Masters site on Biripi Way.
- December 2019 - development application for the change of use of the site to a public administration building was on public exhibition from 30 October 2019 to 6 December 2019. During this time members of the public were able to make submissions.
- 27 November 2019 - The 27 November meeting of Council endorsed the shortlisting of a number of contractors for the construction tender for the office fitout.
- October 2019 - Expressions of interest were sought from suitably qualified head contractors for the construction of the new office, including external modifications and internal fitout.
- 24 July 2019 - Council approved the appointment of Group GSA Pty Ltd as the architect for the project at the 24 July 2019 ordinary meeting of Council.
- 10 April 2019 - Council noted the outcome of the cost benefit analysis prepared by the Balmoral Group Australia that the benefits of a single site outweigh the costs over a 20 year period, and that a single site option is more favourable when compared to a multi-site option. Council approved the project to proceed to the design and construct phase.
- 11 March 2019 – Balmoral Group was appointed to prepare a further cost benefit analysis on the project as per resolution of 6 February 2019 ordinary meeting of Council. The analysis will assess the latest costs and benefits associated with the purchase and fit-out of the building, for use as a single site administrative office for MidCoast Council, compared to a campus model.
- 6 February 2019 - Outcomes of community consultation, a peer review of the draft financing strategy and probity advisors reported to and noted by Council. Resolution to commission a new cost benefit analysis to be undertaken by an independent third party expert.
- 14 December 2018 - Consultation phase closed.
- 5 November 2018 - Community consultation on the draft financing strategy starts for a six week period.
- 31 October 2018 - A draft financing strategy to fund the $20 million head office relocation project was endorsed by Councillors.
- October 2018 - Revised Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken to assess the impact of more conservative property valuations for the Council administration buildings in Forster and Taree.
- August 2018 - approval given by Councillors to proceed to the development of a financing strategy for the project.
- March – July 2018 - a detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating our administrative functions into a single office was conducted by project manager, Montlaur Project Services. This looked at design options and costings.
- 28 February 2018 - following discussions at a prior workshop, Councillors resolved to proceed with a detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating council administrative functions into a single office at the Biripi Way location.
- 21 January 2018 - Council noted the appointment of Montlaur Project Servaices as the successful tenderer for the contract to act as project managers to further investigate the feasibility of the centralisation of council’s administrative functions, as part of the ‘initiation stage’ of the project.
- 20 December 2017 - Councillors endorsed a gateway process for the management of the project. This five stage process means findings at each of the five stages in the process have to be formally reviewed and assessed by Councillors, who then make a decision on whether the project moves forward to the next stage.
- December 2017 - a preliminary business case was prepared by external consultants, with the objective of understanding the cost benefit of a single office for council administration purposes versus continuing to maintain the administration sites in Taree and Forster. The business case indicated a single site was viable, and Councillors accepted this finding.
- 4 December 2017 - Council purchased the Biripi Way property.
- 2 November 2017 - Councillors unanimously resolved to proceed with the purchase of the Biripi Way property as a commercial opportunity and the Contract for Sale was exchanged following the resolution.
Questions relating to the draft financing strategy were compiled during the community consultation phase (5 November - 14 December 2018) and were last updated on 10/12/18.
Click here to view these additional FAQs.
The questions below were compiled prior to the community consultation phase, and were last updated 2/10/18.
Why purchase this building?
Council saw this as a commercial opportunity and investigated options to purchase the site for significantly under its replacement value. The building is not only an excellent commercial opportunity, it is also considered to be a viable option for a centralised administration building.
A centralised administration building will allow us to bring teams together from across the organisation so that we can deliver more effective and efficient services to the community.
Why would Council be interested in commercial opportunities?
MidCoast Council is a commercial and entrepreneurial organisation. Council makes purchases that are strategic in nature and provide either a commercial return or community benefit (e.g carparking).
Many of these sites provide an income for Council which not only goes back into community services and infrastructure but also puts downward pressure on rates.
We currently own:
- Woolworths supermarket in Peel Street, Tuncurry
- Motel and other land in Wallis Street, Forster
- Bottle Shop in Lake Street, Forster
- Civic Precinct site in Lake Street, Forster
- 6ha residential land in Chapmans Road, Tuncurry
- Aviation Business Park in Taree
- Land forming part of the proposed "Northern Gateway" transport precinct
- Existing Council office buildings and depots
Where is the money coming from?
Prior to a decision being made by Councillors to proceed with the project, Council’s internal finance team will assess the proposed cost implications outlined in the investigation report and consider options for the most appropriate funding arrangements (should the project proceed). Council will present a proposed funding strategy as part of the initial gateway phase.
Will the funding of the roads/bridge program be affected by the purchase?
No. We are committed to improving roads and bridges across the MidCoast region, and have recently attracted $50 million in NSW Government funding, which we will match through the existing special rate variation, to deliver a $100 million roads and bridges program over four years.
This is on top of the $30 million roadcare program we are currently delivering to our community. This was funded by merger savings and Stronger Communities funding from the NSW Government.
All of this is on top of our existing roads maintenance program and separate funding allocations we have received for bridge renewals from the Federal Government and Bucketts Way funding from the NSW Government.
What Council buildings do we have that would be affected by the move?
- Council Administration, Pulteney Street, Taree
- Water Services, Muldoon Street, Taree
- Council Administration, Breese Parade, Forster
- Water Services, Breese Parade, Forster
Information on the value of these buildings will be incorporated into the detailed feasibility study, and will form part of the decision on whether the site should be used as a centralised office or other commercial opportunities.
If administrative functions moved into one building, a face-to-face point of contact would remain in Forster. It is anticipated that the depots and district offices would not be affected.
It is important to remember that to retrofit the existing Council offices to ensure they are fit for purpose will come at a cost. Currently Council is operating out of a number of offices and our teams are currently dispersed across multiple sites. To bring teams together will require moving staff and re organising work teams and this will require a refit of the existing buildings.
How much is it going to cost to fitout this building?
A detailed investigation into the feasibility of consolidating our administrative functions into a single office is being conducted by project manager, Montlaur Project Services.
Design options and costings are being developed to provide Councillors with a clear and accurate overview of the estimated cost of relocating services to a central site to support them in their decision making.
Is the use permissible on the site?
The land is zoned B5 Business Development under the Greater Taree Local Environmental Plan 2010.
A public administration building (Council offices) is permitted with consent.
What about the staff and the impact on them?
If a change in location is determined to be the best option we will continue to liaise with staff to understand the potential impacts and minimise these where possible.
Staff will also be impacted if a decision is made to bring teams together in existing buildings, and we will liaise with staff on this scenario as well.
Why the Masters site?
This was a unique commercial opportunity that presented itself.
To house approximately 400 staff and associated facilities we need a building that is around 6000sqm.
We are looking at the most cost effective option to deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers.
What about other Council services, are they moving too?
We anticipate there will be minimal or no impact to other services such as MidCoast Assist, Libraries, Visitor Information Centres, district offices and depots.
In addition a face-to-face point of contact will remain in Forster for transactions over the counter. We are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies that deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers.
How is this going to deliver benefits?
We are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiencies that deliver greater value for money for our ratepayers. The potential consolidation of Council’s administrative functions will mean tangible savings and operational efficiencies. Information on this was provided in the detailed business case. Integration of teams has been hampered and challenging with staff dispersed across the region. Our focus is on ensuring our staff work collaboratively to streamline processes and work holistically to deliver the best possible outcome for our community.