Work halted as council and contractor meet to discuss 'quality assurance' issues

Work already finished on the first stage of Wagga’s main city levee project is facing a substantial do-over after concerns were raised about its quality.

Stage one of the multi-million dollar project has been halted as council staff negotiate with the contractor, Central West Civil, on bringing the work up to standard, and how to proceed from there.

The issues have arisen almost exactly six years after floods devastated Wagga, and triggered an evacuation of the central business district.

One option being considered by the council to get the project back on track is to take some of work from the first stage and make it part of stage two, which is due to go to tender shortly.

Council’s general manager Peter Thompson called a press conference on Wednesday morning to answer questions about the stalled project.

He said the issue at the heart of what council described as “quality assurances” concerns related to the compaction rate of the clay core of the levee, which is being built between Flowerdale Lagoon and the Gobbagombalin Bridge roundabout.

“Any work that needs to be redone to recompact it – which is the fix – it’s not something that is unheard of in terms of how you address it. You just pull out the material and you recompact it again. That would be a contractor cost,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’ve got some concerns that compaction isn’t meeting the standards that we’d like to see, so we are in discussions with the contractor to make sure that compaction rate’s achievable.”

Mr Thompson confirmed it was now unlikely that stage one of the project be completed as scheduled.

“We don’t think we will hit that April date now, given there was no construction today,” he said.

“It will probably push out – I’d be guessing at this point – but I’d probably see the contractor being there doing these works for at least a couple more months.”

Mr Thompson said the “conversations” between the contractor and council staff had been going “very well".

“They started at the end of last week, just by phone, then he came down on Friday and we look like we’re wrapping it up today,” he said.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be on track by the end of the week, with a plan that everyone agrees with.

‘”There is no question the whole levee will be built. We’re still aiming to finish at the end of the year. Whether that’s achievable now will depend on how we package up the rest of the work.”

Mr Thompson said any costs arising from this would be borne by the contractor, who he said had previously done similar work.

“The company had definitely done levees elsewhere in the state,” he said. “I think we consulted with the office of Environment and Heritage, who’d had some experience with the tenderer as well.”

Asked if he thought council was disappointed by the length of time it had been between the 2012 floods and work beginning on the levee banks, Mr Thompson said he had not been with council for much of that time.

“The council and the councillors are very happy that those works are rolling out as we speak and we can see an end in sight as to when the levee will be completed,” he added.

Mr Thompson would not be drawn on whether the current contractor would be ruled out of the second stage of the project.

Member for Riverina and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who helped secure $10 million in government funding, said he had faith that council would “do the right thing” in getting the project completed.

Mr McCormack described the levee bank work – which would see the city protected against a one-in-100-year flood – as crucial for the community and to help put downward pressure on insurance premiums.

“Hopefully the project will be completed on time an on budget,” he said.

President of the North Wagga Residents Association Dan Grentell was unhappy not only about the delays, but by the lack of a final Wagga Floodplain Risk Management Study and Plan.

Mr Grentell said said delays in finalisation of the plan and levee ban work around North Wagga often left the residents feeling like “sitting ducks”.

Cr Paul Funnell said while council staff were dealing with the matter appropriately, it was “frustrating in the extreme” to see the delays.