Tuesday, 3 February 2015

So what type of jobs might Clarence Valley workers get from 155km of Pacific Highway upgrade?

In October 2014 the timeline Prime Minister Tony Abbott placed on completion of the Pacific Highway upgrade between Woolgoolga and the NSW-Qld border was by the "end of the decade", or to put in another way, by 2020.

All the larger contracts (with contract values ranging from $132.5 million down to less than $500,000) were either invitee only or advertised and, these have been awarded to firms from outside the Clarence Valley and sometimes out of the state for periods up to 2016 and 2017.

In all fairness most of these contracts were beyond the means of most Clarence Valley businesses because of the steep prequalification financial levels required to assure both the federal and state government co-funders of a contractor’s financial stability, solvency, and capacity to manage cash flow requirements.

So how are valley businesses going to benefit from the est. $220 million this approximately 155km upgrade (from 6km north of Woolgoolga to 6km south of Ballina) will cost?

Sadly, Clarence Valley Council let the cat out of the bag in its media release of 29 January 2014:

“While the exact contracts are unknown, we do know there will be opportunity for local businesses,”….
Examples of opportunities this may present are; landscaping, cleaning, drainage, fencing, etc. [my red bolding]

There are currently only two open tenders available on the NSW eTendering website and these are for an Independent Hydrological Expert Service and Registration of Interest for the Design and Construction of the bridge over the Clarence River at Harwood, NSW. Even the emu fencing contract between Glenugie and Tyndale has passed valley businesses by.

There has also been talk of the jobs expected to be generated by the upgrade section between Glenugie to Grafton and Iluka-Maclean-Yamba, which includes a second bridge at Harwood.

With the valley-wide unemployment rate running at 8.1 per cent (Grafton 8.9 per cent and Maclean-Yamba-Iluka 7.8 per cent) and with negative employment growth in the September Quarter 2014, it would appear that Clarence Valley locals must pin their hopes on sub-contracting crumbs falling from the table once construction work commences or on finding grunt work with the major contractors, cross their fingers that some of those workers from elsewhere want local accommodation for the twelve to twenty-four months these companies might be working somewhere in the valley and, hope like hell that the Harwood Bridge construction - and the separately funded Grafton Bridge project* - begin by 2018.

* The NSW 2014-15 Budget Papers mention Grafton Bridge, with a foreshadowed $117 million in state funding without any specified timeline, but only $8 million actually available for bridge and feeder roads planning this financial year.

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