Tweed Shire councillor Ron Cooper is the spearhead behind the Wardrop Valley Tiny Homes project. Scott Powick
Tweed Shire councillor Ron Cooper is the spearhead behind the Wardrop Valley Tiny Homes project. Scott Powick

Tiny homes project referred to council audit committee

WORK will continue on the Wardrop Valley Tiny Homes project despite it being referred by a councillors to the Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee.

Cr Warren Polglase's proposal the "council takes no further action" on the project until a determination by the committee failed to gain support at Thursday's Tweed Shire Council meeting.

Instead an amendment passed that work would continue until any issues arose.

The aim of the village was to not only prevent homelessness but also its flow on effects into the broader community by providing affordable housing.

The council-owned site is located along Wardrop Valley Rd and adjoins the Murwillumbah Industry Central Estate, about 5km to the southeast of the Murwillumbah town centre.

Cr Polglase referred the issue to the audit committee on September 22 to investigate the processes of the project which will relate to probity, due diligence, governance, existing policies, and financial capabilities/risk.

The council staff are in the process of reviewing preliminary feasibility options for the proposed project.

 

<<READ MORE:Tweed tiny homes village idea starts council master planning>>

 

So far, the council has spent $84,258 to date on the project following the a Small Smart Sustainable Housing Concept Design contract to Deicke Richards in May 2019 who delivered their final report in August this year.

Council's staff have produced a preliminary budget, based on the schematic design with cost inputs from Deicke Richards sub consultants and the council's engineers, that projects a total project budget of $21.5 million.

Tweed Daily News was unable to access the Deicke Richards as a council spokesman said it did not come under "open access information".

The council agenda states that given the relative lack of detailed design at this stage the preliminary budget has included a 70 per cent contingency, about $3.6 million.

 

<<READ MORE: Affordable housing investigation backed>>

 

It was also noted the council has spent almost $10,000 on a probity Adviser for this project.

Cr Polglase said his concerns were with the "enormous discrepancies" in costs estimations by Cr Ron Cooper as reported in the media and the Deicke Richards report.

"In the paper, Cr Cooper said we could do this for $8 million but the Deicke Richards report starts around $16 million and finished at $21 million," Cr Polglase said.

While no councillors took issue with the project being referred to the audit committee, Cr Cooper said adjustments could be made to bring down the total cost and a business plan needed to be put together to apply for funding and grants.

Cr Milne said it was important for the project to progress as quickly as possible and not issues had been raised especially since a probity officer had been engaged throughout the process.

Mayor Chris Cherry said the audit committee would not bring a value judgement on if the idea of the Wardrop Valley village was a good one, instead is there was any risk to council before more money would be committed.