DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING NEWCASTLE REGIONAL OFFICE
Mr Gaudry asked the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, representing the Minister for Planning, and Minister for Housing -
(1) Who made the decision to move the regional office of the Department of Housing from Newcastle to Maitland?
(2) What justification is there for this move on:
(3) Has a cost benefit analysis been conducted on the move?
(4) If so, what are its findings in relation to costs and benefits?
(5) How many workers will be transferred from Newcastle to Maitland in the move?
(6) How will this transfer improve the efficiency of the regional office?
(7) (a) Has a property been purchased in Maitland to house the regional office?
(8) If not what is the projected cost to provide accommodation in Maitland as it relates to:
(a) Administrative grounds?
(b) Economic grounds?
(c) Service to clients?
I have been advised by the Minister for Planning, and Minister for Housing that the answers to the honourable member's questions are:
(1) to (8) The Minister for Housing appointed a high level Task Force to assist him in ensuring that recommendations of the Mant Inquiry into the Department of Housing were followed through.
Task Force members providing the Minister with this assistance, were representatives from Cabinet Office, Treasury and Office of Public Management, as well as John Mant and the Director of Housing.
Of the many Task Force responsibilities was the major restructure of regional boundaries and location of regional housing offices which was a major recommendation of the Mant Inquiry.
New regional boundaries were designed to create more viable regional operations and a greatly enhanced service to clients. An amalgamation of the Gosford, Hunter, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle areas, where the housing management and development issues are similar, has focused on providing locally accessible services to clients of the Hunter region.
There was a commitment to the establishment of a main regional office which is accessible to the region as a whole and not just to major population centres. The restructure of the Department of Housing is focused on improved planning and co-ordination and the provision of services which are more responsive to local needs. The creation of a regional office at Maitland is consistent with this new decentralised approach.
The bulk of staff in the Hunter region are to be situated in a range of office locations in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Gosford areas. Regional positions which are able to provide an improved service through out-posting elsewhere in the region, will be placed in the most appropriate location.
The whole purpose of the restructure of the Department is to localise decision-making and keep in touch with clients' needs. An increased number of client service staff and the establishment of an Area Office in the Newcastle area and an Area Office for the Lake Macquarie area, will result in a minimal level of disruption of Department of Housing staff.
There is planned to be no job losses across the region and every effort is being made to accommodate existing employees in their current location or location of choice. Staff movements are to be minimal with a high number of these movements the result of promotional opportunities. There are to be no District Office closures.
While the decision to establish the Regional Housing Office for the Hunter region at Maitland has been made, no property for use as office accommodation has been purchased at this time. Future requirements of the Department of Housing in Maitland are being finalised and a range of accommodation options are to be considered.
(a) Land purchase?