Toowoomba suppliers urged to connect with council

PIC: More than $14 million in subcontracts were awarded to local contractors during construction of the newly completed  Toowoomba City Library.

 

Toowoomba Regional Council has invited more than 7000 current and prospective suppliers to take part in an online survey designed to promote greater local business opportunities with council.

TRC finance and business strategy general manager Arun Pratap said the council was looking to improve the information flow between it and local businesses.

“Council is committed to sourcing goods and services locally to help local businesses grow and prosper,” Mr Pratap said.

“There are many benefits to purchasing locally, such as saving time and money on transport, utilising local knowledge to determine if the product will do the job under our particular environmental constraints and adding to an overall sense of mutual support within the community.”

Mr Pratap said Council had been engaging with industry leaders and business representatives for the past six months to better clarify and promote its procurement policies.

“The ratepayer and the community as a whole are the ultimate winners in having streamlined, modified policies in this area. As our economy grows, so too do job opportunities and that flows on to greater spending power for businesses and individuals,” he said.

“Council is keen to hear community views on what is working well and what needs to be changed or improved in relation to its procurement practices.”

Mr Pratap said the council had been holding seminars, workshops and meetings to discuss procurement issues and the survey at http://yoursay.toowoombarc.qld.gov.au/localsupplier would add to the information collated at those events.

“We are doing this with a view to encouraging greater levels of local supplier participation and involvement in the procurement process. This could be the opportunity some local companies need to engage more fully with council,” he said.

Kidston power proposal gets a boost

Photo: The Kidston site has two large adjacent pits which will act as the upper and lower reservoirs for the pumped storage hydro generation scheme. 

 

Genex Power’s $580 million energy project near Kidston, 280 kilometres north-west of Townsville, has been granted special status as a prescribed project said Minister for State Development and Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham.

‘Prescribed project’ status would enable the Coordinator-General to assist Genex Power to progress the project, including ensuring timely approvals across governments said Dr Lynham.

http://www.genexpower.com.au/projects/The_Kidston_Project

The project on the site of the former gold mine will create more than 500 local jobs. Genex proposes:

  • a 150 megawatt solar power generation farm
  • a 330 megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric scheme, using the former mine pits and their stored water
  • 185km transmission line to carry power to the coast and the main Powerlink line between Townsville and Cairns.

“The Kidston project will support our policy to generate 50 per cent of Queensland’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030,” Dr Lytham said.

Dr Lynham said the project was a first in terms of co-locating large scale solar with large scale energy storage.

“And it’s re-cycling the infrastructure of the former Kidston gold mine which closed in 2001, a world first by using a disused mine site for hydro-electric power generation,” he said.

The $300 million solar farm involves installing solar PV on the former mine’s 300 hectares of rehabilitated tailings storage area.

It is one of 10 Queensland solar projects shortlisted earlier this year by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The pumped storage hydroelectric project, which is being developed in parallel, is proposed to be Australia’s third largest hydro power generator, at 330 MW.

Construction starts on the solar farm in the final quarter of 2016 and on the hydroelectric project and transmission line in 2017.

“The project has the potential to meet all the peak power generation demands of North Queensland and some of Central Queensland,” Dr Lynham said.

The design of the hydro project proposes for water to be released from one of the former mine pits into the other through reversible turbines. This is similar to Wivenhoe Power Station at Lake Wivenhoe, 90km north-west of Brisbane, and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme in New South Wales.

During off-peak power consumption periods, the turbines will function as pumps and pump the water back into the upper reservoir to repeat the cycle.

 

FIFO numbers fall in the Bowen Basin

The latest statistical analysis on non-resident working population trends in the Bowen Basin shows what everyone knows.

There are less workers flying in and out now than in the boom.

The figures from The Queensland Government Statistician’s Office Bowen Basin population report 2015 are accurate as of mid-2015 and show four per cent, or 690 less workers on shift than at the same time in June 2014.

That came in at 15.665, down from a peak of 24,035 workers in 2012.

Other key findings of this report include:

  • While mine closures and workforce restructuring have been contributing factors, most of this downturn has been due to completion of construction on new coal mine and coal seam gas (CSG) projects.
  •   The LGA of Isaac (R) had the region’s largest population of non–resident workers on-shift in June 2015 (10,400), some 685 persons or 6% fewer than the preceding year.
  •   Numbers of non–resident workers on-shift also fell in Banana (S) (–545 persons or –38%) and Whitsunday (R) (Bowen only), (–35 persons or –8%) during the year to June 2015.
  •   By contrast, the non-resident population of Central Highlands (R) grew by 580 persons or 17%, reaching 3,955 in June 2015. Losses of production workers at some mines in the LGA were offset by large but temporary workforces engaged in maintenance and plant upgrades.

Bowen Basin region

  •   Worker accommodation villages (WAVs) across the Bowen Basin
    housed around 14,940 non–resident workers on-shift (or 95% of the total) in June 2015. The balance of 725 workers was accommodated in hotels/motels and caravan parks.
  •   There were 54 WAVs operating in the Bowen Basin in June 2015, a net loss of nine establishments from June 2014. Total capacity of Bowen Basin WAVs in June 2015 was estimated at 26,945 beds, a decrease of 1,265 beds or 4% from June 2014.
  •   The proportion of hotel/motel rooms in the Bowen Basin that were vacant and available decreased slightly, from 65% in June 2014 to 63% in June 2015.
  •   Exports of coal from Bowen Basin mines for the year ending 30 June 2015 reached an all-time high of around 212.27 million tonnes (Mt), an increase of around 11.45 Mt from the preceding year.

 

Special economic zone proposed for Mount Isa

The north-west could become a special economic zone if a proposal by the Queensland Resources Council gets off the ground.

The QRC’s chief executive Michael Roche, who co-chaired the first meeting of the North-West Minerals Province Taskforce in Mount Isa, urged the group to be daring with their ideas to ensure a stronger future for the region’s resources sector.

The taskforce comprises representatives from state and local government, industry and the Indigenous community and met in the presence of the Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham and the Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter MP.

‘It is vital that at this time that we are innovative and come up with new ways to support the sector during the downturn and set it up to take advantage of the upturn,’ Mr Roche said.

‘In that spirit, I have proposed that the taskforce consider a special economic zone for the north-west region, supported by both state and federal government.

‘The zone could include government incentives for investment such as accelerated investment allowances and examine possible relief in other areas, such as payroll tax, royalties and stamp duty.’

The taskforce is working to identify the short-term challenges and long-term opportunities for the sector and make recommendations to the minister.

Mr Roche said while the region was in a unique situation with challenges such as distance and infrastructure, the north-west still held enormous untapped potential and opportunity.

‘QRC proposed this taskforce initiative to the government last year as we believed it was important to get our political leaders to focus on working with the resources sector in the north-west province at a time when it, like all regions, is facing significant challenges in the downturn,’ Mr Roche said.

‘Existing operations in the north-west are under pressure and it’s a long time since a major new project went ahead here.

‘But there are positive signs with the North-East Gas Interconnector from the Northern Territory to Mount Isa announced last year, along with the life extension to Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines copper operations.’

The north-west minerals province is one of the world’s richest mineral producing regions, centred on Mount Isa and Cloncurry. It extends from the Northern Territory border up to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The province contains around 11 percent of the world’s known lead and zinc reserves, 5 percent of the world’s silver resources and 1.5 percent of the world’s copper reserves as well as major phosphate and uranium deposits.

The taskforce has been asked to deliver a report to the state government by the middle of the year.

Water works flow in Western Downs region

PIC: The aerobic digester in action at the wastewater treatment plant, opening this month.

Major works are continuing to roll out in a $28.5 million water and wastewater upgrade for Chinchilla.

FB Contracting is due to start work in April on 8km of water pipelines connecting a new raw water pumping station to a new potable water treatment plant and linking into the water supply network at Colamba St.

Western Downs Regional Council infrastructure services general manager Graham Cook said that component of the Chinchilla project was expected to cost about $2.7 million and be completed by September.

Engineering group Monadelphous was recently named as the successful tenderer to build the potable water treatment plant, with construction set to begin in July 2016 and run to August 2017.

That Stage 1, $10.5 million package includes constructing the raw water pumping station on the Condamine River, a new water treatment plant and a 3.5 million-litre reservoir.

Mr Cook urged local businesses looking to subcontract to contact the contractors directly at their head office.

Aquatec Maxcon is completing the town’s new wastewater treatment plant, which is due to be officially opened on March 7.

Mr Cook said $11.4 million had been earmarked for that work, but it was expected to come in about $1 million under budget.

Combined, the Chinchilla projects represent the largest capital works project the council has embarked on.

Carried out under an Accelerated Utilities Capital Works Program, they are intended to give Chinchilla residents a modern top-of-the-line treatment plan, and 3.5-megalitre potable water reservoir.

The program stemmed from an assessment of the region’s sewerage and water network after the amalgamation of the Dalby, Murilla, Tara, Chinchilla and Wambo shires and part of Taroom Shire to form the Western Downs Regional Council area.

“At the time the influx of resource sector business to the region required that we had to upgrade a lot of our facilities because we didn’t have the capacity to handle the extra load and much of the existing plant was reaching the end of its life,” Mr Cook said.

“Council looked at the whole network, did assessments and put a 10-year program in place.

“The first five years of that required about $125 million and the next five years about $25 million, which is about the amount we would have normally spent.”

The Chinchilla water treatment plant was the last on the list of major projects to be completed, he said.

“And it looks like we’ve delivered that work (the first five years of the Accelerated Utilities Capital Works Program) about $25 million under budget,” Mr Cook said.

While the demands of the resource sector wax and wane, Mr Cook said the council had tailor-made projects to suit population trends.

“What we’ve done is made the project so we can easily retrofit to increase capacity should things ramp up,” he said.

 

What it’s worth to keep Queensland Nickel open

A newly released report on the impacts of the closure of Queensland Nickel has shown the refinery contributes an estimated $1.1 billion in output to the region.

That’s only part of what is at stake should the refinery close.

The Queensland Nickel (QN) Yabulu Refinery is part of a triumvirate of processing in Townsville along with Glencore’s Copper Refineries Limited and Korea Zinc’s Sun  Metals plant.

QN employed about 780 staff before administrators recently moved to force more than 230 off the books.

It’s been forced as a result of ongoing low mineral prices.

The Offermans Partners’ report provides an assessment of the potential economic impacts of the closure of the Yabulu refinery to the North Queensland and the State economies.

The report shows the refinery is estimated to support on an annual basis in North Queensland:

  •   $1.1 billion in output (including $680 million directly and $400 million indirectly)
  •   $220 million in Gross Regional Product (GRP) per annum (including $40 million directly and $180 million indirectly)
  •   $150 million in incomes and salaries paid to workers (including $70 million directly and $80 million indirectly)
  •   1970 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs (including 780 directly and 1190 indirectly).
  • Across Queensland (due to the greater flow-on implications) the Yabulu nickel refinery is estimated to support the following annual economic activity:
  •   $1.7 billion in output (including $680 million directly and $1.0 billion indirectly)
  •   $530 million in Gross State Product (GSP) (including $40 million directly and $490 million indirectly)
  •   $310 million in incomes and salaries (including $70 million directly and $240 million indirectly)
  •   3960 FTE jobs (including 780 directly and 3180 indirectly).
  • Beyond the direct and flow-on economic impacts, the closure of Yabulu Nickel Refinery would have further substantial implications for the viability of regional supply chains as well as business and investor confidence across North Queensland.

Help at hand for award entries

Image courtesy of Downer and the Bowen Basin Mining Club.

Businesses submitting entries into the Queensland Mining Contractor Awards have been encouraged to make the most of support offered by official event partner, the Department of State Development.

Run by the Bowen Basin Mining Club, the awards are open to all mining contractors and suppliers with operations in Queensland.

Award finalists and winners will be announced at the Queensland Mining & Engineering Exhibition (QME) in Mackay in July.

Bowen Basin Mining Club director Jodie Currie said the Department of State Development (DSD) was able to assist businesses with review or writing entries.

“The chance to showcase your business to industry, particularly during a trade event such as the Queensland Mining and Engineering Exhibition is an opportunity that does not often present itself and should not be missed,” Ms Currie said.

“Having DSD assistance to submit entries can make the difference between an overwhelming task and a manageable one. This year’s awards submission forms are simplified, and with DSD assistance the barriers to entry are lower than ever for mining industry suppliers and contractors.”

Award categories include cost saving initiative, time saving initiative, project innovation, community and staff engagement initiative, equal opportunity initiative and the QME best product launch (open to QME 2016 exhibitors only).
One company will also be recognised as Mining Contractor of the Year for overall outstanding achievement.

Businesses seeking assistance with their entries can contact DSD economic development officer Ros Trappes on 07 4898 6805 or at ros.trappes@dsd.qld.gov.au

For more information on the Queensland Mining Contractor Awards visit https://www.bbminingclub.com/.

 

Class action on the table

Subcontractors who lost millions of dollars in the wake of national company Walton Construction’s collapse in late 2013 are looking increasingly unlikely to recoup cash owed to them.

That’s the view of Subcontractors Alliance chairman Les Williams, who recently attended the last day of public hearings convened by liquidator Grant Thornton in Melbourne.

Mr Williams, who lives at Coolum, is one of 600 unsecured creditors in Queensland owed about $30 million in total.

The unpaid debt owed by Walton Construction Australia-wide is double that, involving more than 1300 parties.

Mr Williams said it was now a waiting game until Grant Thornton filed a report with ASIC.

“I’m not confident (anything further will happen),” he said.

“The inquiry has gone on for over two years and, as I see it, so many questions still remain unanswered.”

Mr Williams said most of the money owed in Queensland was from outstanding wages due to subcontractors from 21 Walton Construction projects from July, August and September 2013.

He believes the best hope for subcontractors is to mount a class action against Walton Construction and the National Australia Bank.

“I believe NAB has recovered $20 million even though it was not a secured creditor in Queensland,” Mr Williams said.

He said a class action could question NAB’s right to all of the $20 million.

“What I want to know is where has the money owed to the subcontractors gone?” he said.

Mr Williams lodged a six-page submission to ASIC’s Adrian Brown, the senior executive leader of the Insolvency Practitioners’ Stakeholder Team.

In that submission he outlined how Walton Construction had companies created in 2012 where assets were moved around as a result of a restructure.

“Two years and four months later and over $1 million-plus in liquidators’ fees, some of which was generously donated from public funds, creditors of the Walton’s group possess little more information that they did in October 2013,” Mr Williams said.

“Creditors are concerned at the lack of information that is forthcoming after this extended period of time and of constantly being dismissed with claims of confidentiality and operational matters to avoid disclosure. This lacks transparency.

“Surely as victims of this liquidation we have a right to full disclosure of information?”

Subcontractors urged to make themselves known

The number of subcontractors and small business owners attending road shows across Queensland to publicise the Housing and Public Works Department’s Security of Payment Discussion Paper has been low.

Subcontractors and small business owners have until Thursday, March 31 to lodge their views by email to: securityofpayment@hpw.qld.gov.au or by post to: Security of Payment Discussion Paper, GPO Box 2457, Brisbane, Qld, 4001.

The road show series began in mid-February and ends on March 17 in Rockhampton.

The discussion paper has a series of options for the public to consider:
•    Option 1—Project bank accounts: A project bank account facilitates simultaneous payments of a project’s head contractor and all participating subcontractors through a trust arrangement.
•    Option 2—Retention trust fund scheme: This option requires subcontractors’ retention money to be held in a separate trust account.
•    Option 3—Insurance schemes: This option includes a range of insurance schemes to safeguard against defects, late completion and insolvency of contractors.
•    Option 4—Federal legislative changes: This option seeks to lobby the Commonwealth Government for reform to legislation relating to security of payment.
•    Option 5—Education: This option proposes education for the building and construction industry stakeholders regarding matters such as financial management, contract management and protection of their rights.

The discussion paper also seeks feedback on the 2014 amendments to the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004, as well as the Subcontractors’ Charges Act 1974 and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission’s Minimum Financial Requirements Policy.

Visit: www.hpw.qld.gov.au/construction/BuildingPlumbing/Building/Pages/SecurityPaymentSubcontractors.aspx to download the survey or seek more information.

If you have any questions regarding the discussion paper, please email: securityofpayment@hpw.qld.gov.au.

Subcontractors should note that they are subject to the terms of the Queensland Government Privacy Act and their names will not be made public as a result of completing the survey.

 

 

Independently influencing state politics for subbies

Photo: Peter Wellington and Subcontractors Alliance chair Les Williams with other subcontractors at the site of a Walton Construction project.

The Subcontractors Alliance has picked up an influential ally in Queensland State Government MP, Peter Wellington.

The Member for Nicklin, an electorate centred on Nambour, became interested in the lot of subcontractors when Walton Construction collapsed owing 600 tradespeople and small businesses about $30 million in late 2013.

“Walton Construction was building a supermarket only five minutes’ walk from my office in Nambour so I was able to witness first-hand the aftermath of the collapse,” Mr Wellington said.

He also met Subcontractors Alliance chairman Les Williams, who was then a partner in WK Civil, which won the contract for kerbing, channelling and sewerage works for the site.

Mr Williams was a victim of the collapse with a bill of $696,000 outstanding.

“I met Les during this period and witnessed subcontractors lose their businesses, houses, cars and in some cases their families,” Mr Wellington said.

The former policeman, solicitor and now MP has held his seat as an independent since 1998.

He has a Liberal-National Party background, growing up on his family’s cattle farm at Belli Park in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, but maintains he has remained true to his philosophy of voting for what he believes is right for Queensland.

He sided with Peter Beattie’s minority Labor Government when he entered politics in 1998 and fast-forward to 2016 he is again siding with a minority Labor Party Government in his new role as Speaker of the House.

Since the collapse of Walton Construction, he said he had worked with Mr Williams to ensure that something like this never happened again.

“It’s clear the ‘big end of town’ has been having its way with government,” Mr Wellington said.

The culmination of their efforts aided by other members of the alliance is a discussion paper road show coordinated by the Housing and Public Works Department and its minister, Mick de Brenni.

The road show was launched in Nambour and has been working up the coast and west to Mount Isa before winding up in Rockhampton on March 17.

“There are good suggestions in the discussion paper and I know many subcontractors run the risk of being blacklisted (by big developers) for attending the road shows and I commend then for getting involved,” Mr Wellington said.

“I am impressed with Mr de Brenni’s commitment to righting the wrongs of the past and will wait patiently for his responses.”