Chapter 3 Proposed HMAS Albatross redevelopment, Nowra, NSW
The Department of Defence (Defence) seeks approval to redevelop the
Royal Australian Navy Air Station, HMAS Albatross, which is situated in Nowra,
The purpose of the project is to upgrade facilities, infrastructure and
engineering services to meet the base’s projected operational needs and support
capabilities over the next 30 years.
The proposed redevelopment was referred to the Committee on 22 September
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised nationally and submissions sought from those
with a direct interest in the proposal. The Committee received one submission
from Defence and three supplementary submissions, two of which were confidential
and related to the project costings. A list of submissions can be found at
The Committee undertook a site inspection and held a public hearing and an
in-camera hearing on the project costs on 6 December 2011 in Nowra.
The transcript of the public hearing and a copy of the submissions to
this inquiry are available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
Defence submitted that the redevelopment of HMAS Albatross was necessary
for the following reasons:
n to meet projected
base operational needs and support capabilities for the next 30 years;
n to upgrade and
replace ageing, obsolete and, in some cases, potentially unsafe infrastructure
to improve the functionality and capability of facilities; and
n to improve base
trunk engineering services which support Naval operations;
buildings and facilities to support operational capability and meet
an improved working environment; and
new facilities to meet current and future planning for the site.
Defence stated that the project would facilitate the introduction of new
capability to the base and sustain the Defence capability at HMAS Albatross over
the next 30 years:
The significant reinvestment in engineering services and
common facilities will ensure the Base has the ability to support the
introduction of the new MRH-90 helicopters, the new Seahawk helicopters, and
the proposed joint Army and Navy helicopter aircrew training school.
The underground services at HMAS Albatross have not been upgraded
base-wide since the base commenced operations in 1942. Defence noted:
We think it is about time that we got in there and did some
investment, particularly in engineering services, to ensure that this base can
continue to operate for the foreseeable future.
The Committee is satisfied that there is a need for the proposed works.
Scope of the works
The proposed scope of the works is detailed in Submission 1: Department
Defence noted their priorities contained in the project scope:
Priority will be given to the upgrade and refurbishment of
the engineering services, much of which has not been upgraded since the base
commenced operations in 1942. The remaining elements of the project will focus
on works that will deliver operational efficiencies, address occupational
health and safety issues and meet current personnel support requirements.
In summary, there are 22 project elements proposed to be undertaken as
part of the redevelopment. These are as follows:
n upgrade base fire
n upgrade electricity,
water, gas, sewerage, irrigation and security engineering services;
n upgrade Defence
restricted and secret networks;
n upgrade stormwater
n new hot refuelling
n new fuelling
n upgrade parachute
n extend the Australian
Joint Acoustic Analysis Centre;
n new air movements
n upgrade roads and
n new front entry and
relocate navy security personnel (1st Lieutenants and Coxswains);
n new clothing store;
n new base support
n new Headquarters
Fleet Air Arm;
n new Defence support
n new fitness track;
n refurbish base
administrative support building;
n new sporting facility;
n demolition of
standard airside facilities;
n realignment of
Swordfish Road; and
n Sycamore Road
Subject to Parliamentary approval of the project, construction is
planned to commence on the project in mid-2012 and completion would be expected
The anticipated design life for the project is 30 years, with Defence
aiming to maintain a serviceable, fit-for-purpose facility over its lifespan.
There are currently 265 buildings on HMAS Albatross. The proposed
redevelopment would involve rebuilding 34 existing buildings and constructing five
new buildings on the base.
The Committee was concerned that due to the size of the scope, a further
project of similar magnitude would be required at the end of the project’s
design life. Defence responded:
There would be an expectation that, at some point, there
might be midlife upgrade required. The end of that 30-year period does not
necessarily mean that we would need to push the building over. We could
potentially do some further work on it to ensure that it continues to provide a
serviceable, fit-for-purpose facility. While we are doing an enormous amount of
work on this base, if you look at particularly the building component of it, it
is not a very large component of the existing assets on the base.
The Committee notes the extensive number of scope elements contained in Defence’s
project proposal. However, the Committee is satisfied with the evidence
provided to it in relation to each scope element and finds that the proposed
scope of the redevelopment is appropriate to meet the need and project
Cost of the works
The estimated cost of the project is $192 million, excluding GST. This
includes delivery costs for management and design fees, construction costs,
information communication technology, furniture, fittings and equipment,
contingencies and an allowance for escalation.
Defence expects a net increase in the costs of base operations as a
result of the project. The increase in operating costs will result from the
introduction of more sophisticated technical and environmentally compliant
equipment, upgraded infrastructure and engineering services.
Defence argued that the high anticipated cost of the works is justified,
having regard to the size of the base and its considerable capital value:
Yes, $192 million is a lot of money—there is no question
about that—but it is an amount of money that we need to invest to ensure that
that larger asset continues to operate.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to
it have been adequately assessed by the proponent agency.
During the Committee’s inspection of HMAS Albatross on 6 December 2011,
the Committee was concerned to note the proximity of the aviation fuel farm to
neighbouring bushland at HMAS Albatross and questioned Defence regarding their
strategy to mitigate the risk of bushfire.
Defence submitted that the aviation fuel farm at HMAS Albatross is
considered important and vulnerable to the effects of bushfire.
Defence has implemented two mitigation measures to address the potential
fire hazard and bushfire risk to the base, in accordance with the Shoalhaven
Defence Estate Bushfire Management Plan 2009/10-2013/14:
n establishing an Asset
Protection Zone by clearing the understorey vegetation in the bush to the east
of the fuel farm to a minimum of 100 metres;
n maintaining bushfire
protection along the bushland side of the fuel farm, consisting of three fixed
fire hydrants and fire hoses, for use by the designated HMAS Albatross Fire
Defence also noted there is a fire station at HMAS Albatross, near the
flight line of the base.
Having regard to the evidence put before it regarding the bushfire
mitigation strategy, the Committee is satisfied that Defence has taken
appropriate measures to reduce the bushfire risk of the fuel farm, through its
compliance with the Shoalhaven Defence Estate Bushfire Management Plan 2009/10—2013/14.
In its primary submission to the Committee, Defence submitted that there
is no requirement for childcare facilities, as this project does not increase
the base population.
The Committee was concerned to ensure that Defence personnel living or
working on HMAS Albatross had appropriate access to childcare facilities,
having regard to the population of personnel with dependent children.
In response to a question on notice, Defence informed the Committee that
a childcare facility is located outside of the secure area of the Base on
Bedford Road, Nowra Hill, in close proximity to the Parachute Training School
and adjacent to the Nowra Hill Primary School.
The centre is operated under contract by Kids Pty Ltd in
Commonwealth owned facilities. The centre has a capacity of 79 children and
there are several vacancies for 2012. These facilities have been assessed as
being of sufficient capacity and condition to meet the current childcare
requirements of the base.
Having regard to the further evidence provided by Defence regarding
access to childcare facilities on HMAS Albatross, the Committee is satisfied
that Defence personnel who live and/or work on the base have appropriate access
to childcare facilities.
Final Committee comment
Overall, the Committee was impressed with the evidence provided by
Defence regarding the proposed redevelopment of HMAS Albatross in Nowra, NSW,
particularly considering the broad range of scope elements outlined in the
The Committee was greatly assisted by Defence’s supplementary submission
to the inquiry, which addressed a number of outstanding queries the Committee
had, which could not be addressed at the public hearing due to time
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public
Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this Defence
project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a
project which is fit-for-purpose, having regard to the established need.
||The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives
resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,
that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Proposed HMAS
Albatross redevelopment, Nowra, New South Wales.