DET defends Con?s demise
By ZOE SATHERLEY
NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt has defended her department's handling of the Northern Rivers Conservatorium Arts Centre debacle.
Part of the heritage-listed former Lismore High School building, owned by the Department of Education and Training (DET), is under demolition.
Conservatorium staff have accused DET of neglecting the building and refusing to act in a timely way to save it.
The cost of demolishing part of the building and stabilising the remainder is about $1 million, yet the building could have been repaired for $500,000 as late as last September.
A spokesman for Ms Tebbutt said the Keen Street building had a 100-year history of subsidence.
"DET and the Department of Commerce have expended considerable time and effort since July, 2002, on trying to repair the building," he said.
"I'm advised by DET that the project did not suffer undue delays over the past two years.
"I'm further advised that given the need for detailed foundation and struc- tural investigations, DET does not believe the building could have been saved in its entirety.
"DET will now spend significant funds on securing and reinstating the main facade and the remaining building."
The spokesman said that from October 2002 to January 2004, $265,000 was spent planning for stabilisation. Further allocation of funds for repairs was subject to investigation.
While these investigations were being done, the deterioration worsened significantly, he said.
"Action was taken to minimise the risk, that is, stabilisation, evacuation of the affected part, and erecting safety fencing," he said. "In August 2004, one tender only was received to repair the building."
The Northern Star previously reported this tender was for $470,000 by Kyogle company, FE Marsh.
"On October 7, a structural engineer's report confirmed further movement and deterioration, noted no feasible way of repairing part of the building, and recommended demolition," the spokesman said.
"Over the last three years, DET has increased its support to the 15 NSW Regional Conservatoriums by $2.6m, to $3.2m a year.
"DET is happy to help in any discussions with the Lismore management on top-up accommodation should it be required."