The Memorial Park upgrade will provide play areas for children and youths offering a variety of recreation options that parents can supervise from nearby shaded rest areas (Graphic: SBRC)
Cr Ros Heit has asked for ways to ensure more accurate project budgets

May 23, 2024

South Burnett Regional Council will proceed with the construction of a multipurpose sports court and ninja playground in Kingaroy’s Memorial Park despite a $400,000 blow-out in the project’s cost.

The over-run was drawn to Councillors’ attention at their third quarter budget review, where General Manager of Finance Susan Jarvis reported Council’s expected 2023-24 deficit had fallen from $3.489 million to $3.382 million.

Cr Ros Heit said she was concerned that a $450,000 estimate for the Memorial Park playground had blown out to $850,000.

She noted Council had originally planned to have the project funded through a $250,000 grant and $200,000 of ratepayer’s funds, but it was now estimated to cost almost double.

“My issue is that it’s very difficult to run a business when something is budgeted at $450,000 and now it’s coming back at $850,000,” Cr Heit said.

“We can’t have a system where budgeted items come back and the cost blows out.”

Cr Heit said her second reason for being unwilling to support the project was that many Councillors had campaigned on running a “Back To Basics” organisation during the March election.

She felt assigning an extra $400,000 to the playground would not be well received, especially after the Council had recently completed an upgrade of the Lions Park playground in Kingaroy.

Cr Danita Potter took the opposite view, arguing the extra $400,000 had been found from other Parks and Gardens projects that had either come in under budget or had been abandoned.

She said axing the playground project would be a “kick in the teeth” for Parks and Gardens staff who had scrimped to find the money to cover the cost over-run, as well as the many community groups which had expressed their support for the project, including the South Burnett Youth Council and the Go Getta Girls running group.

Cr Potter said it was desirable that every town in the region had “something special” for young people and listed Blackbutt’s Sensory Garden, Butter Factory Park in Nanango, the beginnings of a water park at Wondai Pool and QEII Park in Murgon as examples of facilities parents could take their children to.

Cr Jane Erkens agreed, noting she often drove her granddaughter to the Wondai Pool to enjoy the facilities there, and had met many Kingaroy residents who regularly visited Nanango’s Butter Factory Park.

Cr Heit asked where Parks and Gardens had saved the $400,000 needed for the Memorial Park playground, and if these savings meant other projects had been sacrificed.

Facilities Manager Leanne Petersen said $150,000 had been saved from the recent upgrade to QEII Park in Murgon and $200,000 from a decision to defer a detailed design for a future upgrade to Kingaroy swimming pool.

The remaining $50,000 had come from smaller savings on other Parks and Gardens projects around the region.

Cr Heit then asked if staff could give any advice on how to prevent similar over-runs in future.

CEO Mark Pitt said the simplest answer to this question was “time”.

He said that in general the longer the gap between the time when a project was proposed to when it was acted on, the higher the cost due to CPI rises and inflation.

Budgets were also less accurate if they were prepared before the project had been assessed by a quantity surveyor and/or put out to tender.

Mr Pitt said the Kingaroy playground would be three years old by the time it was built.

A quantity surveyor had provided the most accurate data possible when the $250,000 grant was sought, but these figures had yet to be tested by putting the project out into the market for tender.

Mr Pitt said he agreed with Cr Heit’s concerns and Council staff would welcome any measures that helped ensure project budgets were as accurate as possible.

The proposal to push ahead with the playground was moved by Cr Danita Potter, seconded by Cr Jane Erkens and carried unanimously.

The project will now be put out to tender.

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