The Department of Defence (Defence) seeks approval from the Committee to proceed with the proposed HMAS Moreton Unit Relocation Project at Bulimba in Queensland.
The estimated cost of the project is $15.6 million excluding GST.
The project was referred to the Committee on 30 March 2017.
Conduct of the inquiry
Following referral, the inquiry was publicised on the Committee’s website and via media release.
The Committee received 14 submissions and two confidential submissions. A list of submissions can be found at Appendix A.
On 5 May 2017, the Committee conducted a public and in-camera hearing. On 28 July 2017, the Committee conducted public hearings with representatives of the Bulimba community and Defence. Transcripts of these public hearings are available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
In its submission, Defence told the Committee that:
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has maintained a presence in Brisbane since the late-1800s, initially to train sailors in the Naval Reserves and in later years supporting operations and visiting Australian and foreign warships in South-east Queensland.
Defence stated that the proposed works had arisen as part of a wider process of estate consolidation. According to Defence:
In 2014, Government agreed to the disposal of the majority of the Bulimba Barracks site in Brisbane, Queensland, in order to achieve estate consolidation objectives following the relocation of Joint Logistics Unit – South Queensland (JLU-SQ) to RAAF Base Amberley as part of the Defence Logistics Transformation Program.
As a result, Defence has identified 20 hectares of the 23 hectares formerly known as Bulimba Barracks for disposal. Defence stated that the presence of the RAN will be maintained through HMAS Moreton, which is situated on the portion of the former Bulimba Barracks that is not subject to disposal.
In its submission, Defence noted that:
Coordination and administration of all RAN activity in Queensland south of the Tropic of Capricorn (near Rockhampton) including the organisation of ship visits by RAN and foreign naval vessels to Brisbane, Gladstone and Southport are maintained by the RAN at Moreton.
Defence told the Committee that HMAS Moreton would continue to perform a range of functions:
The base is an important asset for the RAN and also hosts visiting Minor War Vessels and the floating pontoon berth, including Armidale Class Patrol Boats and Coastal Minehunters, and the Sail Training Ship Young Endeavour when berthed alongside Moreton or in the Port of Brisbane. Moreton also provides facilities for Australian Navy Cadet (ANC) activities and sail training.
In addition, Defence listed the following historical and current functions performed at HMAS Moreton:
Liaison services for visiting RAN and foreign Major Fleet Units including Maritime Trade Operations support to major exercises (for example, Exercise Talisman Sabre);
Support to civil authorities (for example, Brisbane flood response (2011), G-20 Summit in Brisbane (2014) and Commonwealth Games (2018)); and
Support and transit accommodation to tri-service units.
As well as performing these functions, HMAS Moreton also supports the following lodger units and attached elements:
Australian Navy Reserve Diving Team 8;
RAN Band Detachment – Queensland;
Personnel Support Unit – South Queensland;
Navy People Career Management Agency Reserve Management – South Queensland;
Naval Reserve Maritime Trade Operations;
Navy Community Engagement coordination cell;
ANC Flotilla Headquarters – Brisbane and Gold Coast; and
ANC Training Ship Gayundah.
At the public hearing, Defence told the Committee that the proposed works are needed to ensure that Navy’s operational and administrative functions are retained after the partial disposal of the surplus land at Bulimba Barracks. Given that some of the current facilities and infrastructure supporting these functions will be lost after the sale of the surplus land, Defence stated that the redevelopment of the retained site is necessary.
Scope of the works
Defence split the scope of the proposed works into eight project elements. Across all of these elements, Defence stated that it would:
Deliver a sustainable outcome for the Defence Estate by maximising adaptive reuse of existing facilities where possible and cost effective, consolidating buildings and functions, demolishing redundant buildings, refurbishing, extending and upgrading existing infrastructure.
Project Element 1 is focused on the demolition of redundant or otherwise not fit-for-purpose buildings. It includes:
Excavation and removal of redundant in-ground services, identified during site investigations;
Demolition of Building A005, which is a demountable office structure that has reached the end of its effective life and is no longer fit for use;
Demolition of Building A007, a carport structure which is not fit for use and will not be significantly improved by upgrades; and
Demolition of Building A014, a simple shelter roof with no enclosed walls. This building has a slab which does not sit flush with the ground and poses a workplace health and safety risk.
Project Element 2 proposes to construct a new, single storey gatehouse facility at the new entry point to HMAS Moreton. According to Defence:
There will be significant glazing to optimise visual control of the entry-exit precinct, and CCTV facilities to further enhance this, as well as providing visibility to the waterfront access to the site.
Project Element 3 proposes to replace two conference facilities which will be lost as a result of the sale of the surplus land at Bulimba Barracks with a new Multi-User Facility. Defence told the Committee that:
The proposed facility will be a two storey structure that incorporates multipurpose spaces for training/meeting functions, food preparation in support for the adjacent transit accommodation, and flexible working accommodation to suit the various lodger units that will be accommodated on the site.
Project Element 4 proposed to replace the existing three transit accommodation blocks on the part of Bulimba Barracks identified for disposal with a new transit accommodation building. According to Defence:
The proposed facility will be a three storey structure that incorporates flexible accommodation spaces for 60 personnel, including provision on the ground floor to accommodate persons with disabilities.
Project Element 5 proposes to construct both weatherproof and open storage shelters, to provide ‘adaptive storage to suit the needs of the various cadet units that will occupy the site’. Defence stated that these shelters will ‘have limited servicing’ with ‘no electronic security or communications provisions’.
Project Element 6 proposes the construction of two training shelters to provide ‘flexible and adaptable outdoor covered training areas’ suited to the needs of the cadet units. In its submission, Defence noted that:
The covered areas will accommodate up to 20 personnel and will be walled on three sides to optimise usability in all environments. Bench seating will also be provided around the perimeter of the space.
Project Element 7 covers a wide range of infrastructure intended to support site services, including:
Connection of new potable water, sewer, stormwater and electrical services from existing utilities along Taylor Street to service new facilities on Moreton;
Installation of water and power meters to the retained Defence site;
Relocation of and access to Defence Restricted Network, Defence Secret Network, Defence Voice Network and Cadet Net;
Relocation of visitor management system from old to new gatehouse;
Extension of Taylor Street to connect to the new entry gate;
Internal road network, tying in the new entry to existing roads;
Pathways to interlink buildings within the new development area;
Reinforced grass area to be used as overflow carparking and cadets parade;
Minor repairs to ring road near the existing pontoon berth;
New flagpole and signage for new front entry; and
Upgrade of security fencing along the western boundary of the residual Defence site.
Project Element 8 proposes to construct a new boat ramp along the Brisbane River ‘for small water craft to conduct training and operations’. According to Defence, this ramp will ‘include pavement, bollards, walls and road access suitable for typical small water craft requirements’. Defence told the Committee that the boat ramp was necessary to replace the existing boat ramp, which will be lost as a result of the disposal of the surplus land.
Heritage and environmental issues
During the course of the inquiry, several issues related to cultural and environmental heritage were raised in regard to both the disposal of the surplus land and this project.
Specifically, the Bulimba District Historical Society (the Society) expressed its belief that ‘there is uncertainty about heritage issues’, and drew the Committee’s attention to a stone wall which traverses both the project site and the surplus land identified for disposal, as well as a warehouse on the project site. The Society also argued that the construction of the boat ramp under Project Element 8 ‘appears to be tidal works’, and as a result it may be ‘carried out on land in which native title rights and interests’ exist.
As a result, the Society was of the view that Defence should conduct a heritage assessment of the project site, and use the results of this assessment to develop a heritage management plan.
The comments of the Society were supported by both Ms Di Farmer MP, State Member for Bulimba, and Ms Terri Butler MP, Federal Member for Griffith.
At the public hearing, Defence responded to these concerns, stating that:
We certainly will be commissioning a heritage assessment to fully examine any potential heritage values as part of the site. Some of those heritage values have already been recognised by the [Brisbane City] Council on its heritage register, so we will make sure that a comprehensive heritage assessment is being done. If there are any additional values identified as part of the heritage assessment, we will work with the Council and the state government for ongoing statutory protection for those heritage values…
Furthermore, Defence recognised the uncertainty surrounding the heritage value of both the warehouse and boat ramp. Defence told the Committee that:
At the point in time when we did the initial environmental review, there was uncertainty around a couple of items on the site and whether there was significance associated with them. One of them was the stone wall which separates the site from the river. That was confirmed with the Brisbane City Council, and they came back to us to confirm that there was no significant heritage value with the stone wall that was on the HMAS Moreton site.
Additionally, in regard to the warehouse on the project site, Defence stated that while the ‘warehouse will be assessed as part of the broader assessment’, there will not be any work undertaken as part of this project that will impact the existing warehouse in any way.
In regard to the environmental impact of the proposed works, Defence stated that:
An Initial Environmental Assessment (IER) for the proposed works associated with this project was completed in 2015, against the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The conclusion of the IER was that environmental risks associated with the project are minor and manageable through the development of a site specific Construction Environmental Management Plan.
Partly in response to the concerns raised by local residents, Defence conducted a heritage impact assessment for the proposed project site prior to parliamentary approval of the works. This assessment concluded that:
The proposed works will not have a significant heritage impact on the heritage values of HMAS Moreton. Aspects of the proposed works, particularly the stabilisation effect of the boat ramp to prevent further erosion of the river bank and the memorial garden, will contribute positively to the heritage values of the base.
The Committee appreciates the submissions made by the Bulimba District Historical Society, Councillor Shayne Sutton, Ms Farmer MP and Ms Butler MP. The input of local residents and their elected representatives can constitute an important contribution to the Committee’s scrutiny process.
The heritage and environmental impact of proposed works are also an important part of the Committee’s consideration of proposed works. As such, the Committee thanks local community representatives for their input.
At the 28 July public hearing, the Committee afforded the local community the opportunity to discuss the heritage impacts of both the proposed works, and the wider disposal project. The Committee commends all those who gave evidence on heritage issues for their commitment to the historical and heritage values of both the project and disposal sites.
However, the Committee is cognisant that many of the heritage issues raised during this inquiry relate more the disposal of the surplus land. These matters fall outside the scope of this inquiry, and indeed the Committee’s jurisdiction under the Public Works Committee Act 1969.
In regard to heritage, following the conduct of the heritage impact assessment the Committee is confident that Defence will ensure that any heritage issues are effectively dealt with through the development of a Construction Environmental Management Plan.
Cost of the works
The estimated cost of the project is $15.6 million (excluding GST). It includes the construction costs, management and design fees, furniture, information communications technology, fitting, equipment, contingencies and escalation.
The Committee received a confidential supplementary submission detailing the project costs and held an in-camera hearing with Defence on the project costs.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings for the project provided to it have been adequately assessed by the proponent entity.
The Committee commends the Easy and Sustainable Transport Bicycle User Group Inc. (EAST BUG) for their suggestion to include a covenant as part of the sale of the surplus land, to facilitate the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare along the Brisbane River at the site of Bulimba Barracks. While the Committee supports the intent of the proposal, the Committee notes that it is not within the current scope of the project, and encourages EAST BUG to continue to pursue its suggestion with the relevant authorities.
The Committee notes that there seems to have been some confusion within the Bulimba community about this project. It is clear that some Bulimba residents remain uncertain about the separation between the HMAS Moreton capital works project, and the separate project focused on disposing of part of the land at Bulimba Barracks.
In the Committee’s view, it is possible that some of this confusion may have resulted from the consultation process. As noted above, the Committee received some evidence that was focused on the disposal project, rather than HMAS Moreton. The Committee encourages Defence to continue to refine its consultation processes, so that in future residents of an area who may be affected by similar works are able to clearly identify the separation between projects.
It is not within the Committee’s remit to make recommendations or suggestions regarding the land identified for disposal. Instead, the Committee encourages Defence to continue its community consultation throughout the life of the project under consideration, so as to ensure that local residents have as much information as possible about how the proposed works and the disposal of the surplus land will impact the local community. The Committee also encourages local residents and their elected representatives to continue to engage with Defence on both projects, as well as with relevant local and state authorities regarding the land identified for disposal.
The Committee did not identify any issues of concern with the proposal and is satisfied that the project has merit in terms of need, scope and cost.
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public Works Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this 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; HMAS Moreton Unit Relocation project.
Proponent entities must notify the Committee of any changes to the project scope, time, cost, function and design. The Committee also requires a post–implementation report be provided within three months of a project completion. A report template can be found on the Committee’s website.