Design firms counting the cost

14/01/2009 - 22:00

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AS the state government conducts an audit on capital works projects worth more than $20 million in an effort to contain spending, a number of affected design firms have already started to count the financial costs, including redundancies.

Design firms counting the cost

AS the state government conducts an audit on capital works projects worth more than $20 million in an effort to contain spending, a number of affected design firms have already started to count the financial costs, including redundancies.

Several firms have been advised by the government to cease work on their respective projects pending a Treasury decision on whether the projects will still go ahead.

Woodhead principal Jacqui Preshaw said she was advised by email in mid-December to stop working on the new $46 million Fire and Emergency Services Authority facility until the firm received advice that the project would go ahead.

Most of the eight staff members working on the project have been re-assigned to other projects within the firm, with one and possibly a second staff member being made redundant.

"We are concerned with the resultant job losses and the fact that in times like this we do rely on government to help mobility and direction," Ms Preshaw said.

"We're relying on government to inject some activity into the market."

Peter Hunt Architects director Ron Edenburg said his firm had been instructed not to proceed with the $80 million Northbridge police station project, pending further advice.

The firm is also awaiting a decision on the future of the Eastern Goldfields prison upgrade.

"There's been no advice at all in terms of timing of what's happening," Mr Edenburg said.

"We're waiting on the outcome of a number of different projects, which is affecting dynamics. But at this point in time we're maintaining the status quo.

"There will be an impact if work doesn't get released. Everyone's in the same position.

"We all depend on government work to varying degrees, and if the tap's turned off it will have a huge impact."

The Department of Agriculture and Food WA's proposed new $200 million headquarters and bio-security facility in Murdoch is another major project being put under the microscope. A DAFWA spokesperson said the concept plan had been competed, with the proposed design currently being considered by government.

A spokesperson for the treasurer said any decisions on proceeding with these projects, resulting from the capital works audit, would be made as part of the 2009-10 budget process.

Earlier this month, the government gave the go-ahead for the new Albany health campus and the expansion of Joondalup Health Campus, with Busselton hospital also tipped to get the nod.

An indication which major projects will proceed is likely to come from the federal government, which is currently assessing the state's requests for funding through the Infrastructure Australia program.

All but one of these submissions, if approved, will require matched funding from the state and will almost certainly guarantee those projects will go ahead.

Proposals submitted include the Northbridge rail link, Perth Airport transport links, Oakajee port and Pilbara housing and indigenous infrastructure.

The federal government has also pledged funding for infrastructure projects through its nation-building package, including the Ord River expansion.

Master Builders Association of WA director Gavan Forster said the construction industry was likely to feel the flow-on effect from the drying up of work around mid-year.

"There is already some tightness and labour shedding in some companies. Drafting, estimators, architects are usually the first ones to feel the pain before you've got the flow-on to the construction sector on site, perhaps not immediately but as the year goes on," he said.

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