Demand an audit into Darebin City Council’s $63​.​5 million pool.

Demand an audit into Darebin City Council’s $63​.​5 million pool.

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Wei (Jim) Shen started this petition to Andrew Greaves; Auditor General of Victoria and

We, the undersigned, write to seek your intervention in the matter of The Darebin City Council’s proposed 20/21 Budget.

We implore you to audit and examine the processes undertaken by the council in costing and tendering the building of the $63.5m Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre.

We implore you to also examine the community feedback/input process which has been undertaken for this project.

The undersigned call on Andrew Greaves, Auditor General of Victoria, Adem Somuyrek, Victorian Minister for Local Government and Small Business, Robin Scott MP, Kat Theophanous MP and Ged Kearney MP to immediately intervene in this matter.


The Darebin City Council has proposed a misguided and ill-thought-out agenda for the city’s 20/21 Budget, in particular its focus on non-essential capital spending in the face of the Covid-19 Outbreak. This particular budget stands to greatly disadvantage the city’s financial position at a time when many ratepayers, residents and businesses are struggling in a way that we have never seen before and could not have anticipated.

The decision by the Darebin City Council to use its emergency budget to rush through the commencement of construction on its Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre (NARC) is one that has many residents worried that the North of the municipality will not see substantial capital expenditure on the direly needed facilities in the area for some time to come. At present, children attending schools in the Reservoir area are travelling to Epping to complete school swimming lessons, as the Reservoir Leisure Centre (RLC) is an inappropriate facility to hold these classes in due to space, safety and disrepair issues. The council has proposed a total amount of $63.5 million to be spent on NARC alone, and has decided to not even consider works for RLC in the current budget. This amount is more than twice that spent by both the city of Whittlesea and city of Booroondara on similar projects. We, the undersigned, ask why this huge cost has been assigned to the project, seemingly to the deficit of the rest of the municipality. There is great concern that tying the council budget to this huge expenditure will not only cause further disparity than currently exists between the north and south of the city in the 20/21 financial year, but for many, many years to come. The councils spending record in regards to North and South of Bell st is a well-known pain point for many residents in the Preston and Reservoir areas of the municipality. There is a great fear that the cuts Darebin Council has made to essential services, such as aged care and community groups, will be further reduced to cover the huge cost of NARC.

The Darebin Council has defended these service cuts by stating that the city simply does not have the money to maintain the current service provision. Why then, are they spending such an enormous amount on a single facility, that will not be of significant benefit to many in the municipality?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on business, ratepayers and the wider Darebin community, and requires a sensitive approach to budgeting by the sitting council. However, in the emergency budget, commencement of NARC at $33 million has been tabled as an essential budgetary item, with a comparatively small amount of $10 million set aside for assistance to local business owners. We, the undersigned, feel this focus on a major capital work when many ratepayers are facing job losses and collapse of businesses shows a council that is not acting in the best interest of the municipality or the voting constituents.

Darebin needs a budget that addresses not only the added stresses and hugely damaging impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but also the existing spending disparity across the city.

It is the belief of all of those undersigned that this particular budget shows the incapability of Darebin City Council to properly address urgent budgetary matters within the city and that this sitting council refuses to take necessary steps to protect the financial security of not only the city, but those who work and reside there.

The ratepayers of the City of Darebin must also be afforded the right to properly scrutinise the Return on Investment that the city will get from this project and the impact on the city’s capital expenditure in 20/21 and looking forward. Ratepayers of Darebin must also be afforded the right to weigh up the extended impact that overspending on such capital projects as the NARC can have on the council’s ability to provide essential services, and ensure equitable value for the whole municipality

It is unheard of that only 2 weeks of public consultation for a project of this magnitude and expenditure would be undertaken. This is insufficient time for any residents to organise and lobby, and with the current COVID-19 pandemic social distancing measures, it is essentially impossible for residents to firstly attend council meetings to ask questions of councillors, or to organise to lobby or petition the council to reconsider the project. We ask that you intervene on behalf of the residents of Darebin to have the commencement of this project be subject to fair and accessible processes, as would be expected of any project of this scale.

It is the responsibility of Local Government to maintain fair process and ensure that residents are not only given all of the relevant information on developments in their locality, expectations that any private developer is subject to, but to be given appropriate and accessible avenues to address disputes and objections to said development.

As has previously been raised with the office of Minister Somyurek, the Darebin City Council has repeatedly failed to address public questions and consult residents and ratepayers in a transparent manner. It is essential that residents and ratepayers be able to hold elected officials to account on their decisions impacting the wider municipality.

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