By Kirra Grimes
WHAT’S the definition of frustration?
Staff at Korumburra’s Carinya Lodge can tell you all about it.
Attempting to complete a highly-anticipated extension to their residential aged care facility by March/April 2020, they’ve recently been told, to their dismay, they’ll have to add an extra four months to the project’s timeline.
And what’s to blame for the delay?
The infamous National Broadband Network (NBN).
But it’s not the connectivity issues familiar to so many householders and businesses causing headaches this time.
It’s the need to relocate NBN infrastructure that’s proving a far bigger hurdle than anyone could have anticipated.
Specifically, NBN cables discovered during construction at the Carinya Crescent site need to be moved to make way for the new buildings.
How far do these cables need to be moved?
Less than a metre.
NBNCo’s estimate of how long that will take?
Up to 20 weeks.
That’s because the process to complete this seemingly simple task requires multiple steps, each one taking NBNCo several weeks to carry out.
First, there’s the design phase (4-6 weeks); then the quote (another 4-6 weeks); then the actual works (4-8 weeks); adding up to a waiting period of between 12 and 20 weeks – just to get a few cables moved a few centimetres to the left.
“Welcome to our nightmare,” construction project manager Matt Klavins said while showing the Sentinel-Times around the site last week.
The NBN-imposed delay will have major implications for the project, Matt said, forcing him to reengineer the proposed building – Carinya’s first ever dementia specific wing, featuring 14 private rooms as well as a kitchen and dining area – at a large cost to the not-for-profit aged care provider.
“It will cause a variation to the building,” he said.
“We won’t be able to pour the slab unless we separate it into two stages, and that will have flow on effects for the frame; the roof; the steel; basically, everything that comes after. It’s a nightmare for all involved.”
The issue also casts doubt over whether the new wing, in its entirety, would be completed by the desired date of mid next year, meaning the facility might struggle to obtain a certificate of occupancy, Carinya’s CEO Cindy Nicholas said.
“We don’t know if we’d even be allowed to move people into a half-finished building,” Cindy said.
“And even if we could, people don’t want to wait an extra four or five months.
“People who need the specific dementia care we’ve promised will go elsewhere. It’s already started happening.”
The impact will also spread to the second phase of Carinya’s $5 million plus redevelopment project, which will see 20 new beds in total added to the facility and the refurbishment of 40 existing private rooms and their attached common areas.
“We were going to house some of our current residents in the new wing while their original rooms were being refurbished, but we don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that now. We don’t know where we’re going to put them,” she said.
When the Sentinel-Times put Carinya’s concerns to NBNCo, their response was to encourage anyone considering works that may require the relocation of NBN infrastructure to “apply early and provide NBN with as much advance notice of plans as possible”.
According to NBNCo, Carinya’s request move NBN assets came through on July 8; followed by a quote request on August 20, which is yet to be finalised.
Matt and Cindy have hit back, saying they contacted NBNCo back in May, around the same time they lodged a request with Telstra to complete works necessary to accommodate the construction plans for the site.
“We contacted Telstra the first week we got on site in May and found that their pit was going to be obstructing the building,” Matt said.
“We didn’t know the cables belonged to NBN until Telstra told us when they came out to move their pit – there was nothing on the land survey drawings or cabelling plans that said anything about NBN – that’s the only reason we didn’t contact them sooner.”
Telstra’s response was prompt, Matt said, with a crew attending the site and completing their works within 10 days of receiving the request.
But NBN’s approach has not come off well in comparison, and Carinya staff have even joked about moving the cables themselves to avoid the “ridiculous” wait.
“We’d probably get a fine if we did it ourselves, but for the amount of time and money we’ll waste waiting for them to do it and redesigning our building around it, it might be worth it!” Cindy said.
Time is running out for Carinya to avoid a costly and complicated reconfiguration of the project, with Matt explaining the NBN cables would need to be moved within the next two weeks to keep things running according to the original plan.
“At the moment, we’re proceeding as though we’re only going to be able to pour part of the slab; but if we could get the cables shifted within the next two weeks, we’d be able to do the whole thing in a single pour, which would save heaps of money,” he said.
But NBNCo apparently doesn’t see a need to treat the matter with any urgency, telling the Sentinel-Times that things were progressing well within their standard timeline for commercial works.
Cindy and her fellow staff said it had been a “disappointing” turn of events for a project designed to boost aged care and employment in Korumburra and surrounds, but they were still holding out hope the “nightmare” might be over soon.
The Sentinel-Times contacted Federal Member for Monash, Russell Broadbent, to find out what he could do to help, after his party pledged $1.3 million to Carinya’s redevelopment project earlier this year, saying at the time the facility’s “committee, management and staff are to be commended for the dedication to providing our most senior residents with quality care here in their own community”.
Mr Broadbent’s response yesterday, Monday September 2, was to reiterate that “the redevelopment at Carinya Lodge will make a tremendous contribution to providing our local seniors and their families with modernised local care and accommodation options”.
“I am working with Carinya and the NBN Co to assist in resolving relocation of the NBN infrastructure on site,” he said, adding that he was “hoping to resolve any unnecessary delays”.