Public Housing Maintenance

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SpeakersPearce The Hon Greg

Page: 14424

The Hon. GREG PEARCE [1.19 a.m.]: Tonight I wish to draw the attention of the House to the lack of commitment by this Government to service delivery, particularly in relation to public housing and the Government's failure to provide adequate maintenance to deal with the backlog in public housing. Part of the reason I wanted to draw honourable members' attention to this matter tonight is a memo that has come to my attention from the acting general manager of the Greater Western Sydney Division of Housing New South Wales in relation to maintenance charges. This memo is dated 26 September 2008.

The memo begins by stating, "Currently the division's 2008-09 expenditure on repairs and maintenance is running well ahead of budget." It goes on to say, "If the trend continues we will be well over budget by the end of the financial year." Then the memo sets out some steps that the various staff, who are referred to as "colleagues", should take in relation to maintenance inquiries from public housing tenants. It states that all delegations to raise work orders were withdrawn and that there is an exception for urgent boarding up of vacant houses where essential to prevent vandalism.

The memo then goes on to outline the process that the officers of Housing New South Wales should undertake. It helpfully states that if a tenant happens to be in the office raising an issue about maintenance the staff should direct the tenant to a telephone in the office to ring Housing's maintenance people. It goes on to state that if there is no phone in the office but there is a standard phone booth nearby the staff should dial 13 15 71 for the tenant and allow the tenant to complete the call themselves. I would have thought that is as close to being fobbed off as one could imagine. The memo states further that any work that a team identifies to bring an occupied property to a clean, safe and habitable condition that cannot be deferred to future planned works programs is to be referred to the asset operations team via email. In other words, fob it off.

This is a very important issue because the Government has no real commitment to dealing with the maintenance backlog that has built up during its term of office, notwithstanding the fact that a very considerable amount of money is spent on maintenance of public housing. Last year it was some $224 million. This year it has been reduced to about $220 million. The backlog itself is the subject of considerable concern. Housing New South Wales' annual report for 2008 is open about the issue. On page 159 in small letters, under note 28 to the accounts, it discloses that as at 30 June 2008 the maintenance backlog was assessed at $647.5 million. It helpfully goes on to state that that is a marginal—a very interesting word—increase over the 30 June 2007 maintenance backlog estimate of $612 million.

Instead of the maintenance backlog being addressed it is actually getting worse, by 6 per cent in that financial year. This is not just a matter than I am concerned about; it was raised by the Auditor-General in his most recent report of 2008. He notes the same amount of money and states that in 2007-08 Housing completed maintenance works on 26,000 properties but that Housing forecasts removal of the substantive maintenance backlog will still take another seven or eight years. He notes that the removal of that maintenance backlog was originally forecast to be completed by 2011-12.

There is no commitment to deal with that. Yet Premier Rees claimed in December that he had ordered the Government to bring forward 10 years worth of upgrades. It is extraordinary to think he wants to bring forward 10 years worth of upgrades because he has allowed only $220 million to do that. Given that the current budget is $220 million a year, I fail to see how that amount is going to cover 10 years worth of work, although I am sure the Premier would be able to explain his maths if he had the opportunity. This is a very important matter. As the alternative Government the Coalition cares about the delivery of services to the people of New South Wales. The Government must do much better over the next two years. [Time expired.]