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Edition 323 – Demolishing New Things

I’m dropping Callum off at his place of employment managing before and after school care at Harrington Park. It’s a place I know well, located across the car park from Fairfax Reserve, where Callum has spent the past 17 years playing AFL. In saying that, it’s been a little while since I’d ventured that way.

We turned into the car park full of construction workers in high viz work gear, just before 7am.

“What’s that?” I remarked as I swung into the parking spot.

“That’s the new hall” Callum remarked.

“New hall” I replied “what happened to the old one?”

“They demolished it” was his response. “It was too small”.

I sat there dazed. This is a primary school in a master planned community that is less than a quarter of a century old.  How do you demolish a building that is less than 25 years old? Or maybe the question should be, why was it built too small in the first place to accommodate the future growth in the local school community, the size of which would have been known right from the outset?

The demolition of the Sydney Football Stadium (opened in 1988), the Sydney Entertainment Centre (opened in 1983) and the Sydney International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour (also opened in 1988) and their replacement with new facilities might be a master stroke in asset recycling, but it seems to me to be a classic case of a lack of long term forward planning.

Inside family businesses, new facilities are constructed all the time. Sometimes they’re too small, so the family has to invest funds in expanding their premises. In other circumstances, the sale of their existing facility needs to be undertaken to relocate to a new, larger facility to accommodate for the growth in the business, both current and future.

In each of these situations, the family either:

  1. Invests capital to improve an existing asset; or
  2. Realises a capital asset to re-invest in a new one.

Now, whilst I’m sure there are some family businesses that do demolish their facilities because of significant technological advancement (think of businesses in the scientific or medical space), most wouldn’t merely obliterate a building, simply to go and borrow more money and build a new one.

My point today is this. As taxpayers, we’re all footing the bill for this inability of those in Government to forward plan. Yes, I know some of it is pork barrelling by politicians. However, some of it is also down to poor decision making by public servants. Why aren’t we building infrastructure that is fit for purpose for more than a single generation? If something is built too small in the first place, why isn’t someone that is involved in procurement not stepping up and saying “this doesn’t make financial sense to do it this way?”

The last time I checked, no one actually suggested that we needed to pay more tax in this country. Yet we’re going to have to if we continue to fund the inadequate construction of infrastructure, let alone the other programmes that Governments have a social responsibility to fund.

This Week’s Tip

 “What would the great cities of Europe look like if, in their past, they’d demolished buildings
and other infrastructure that was a generation old?”