Development of Landscape Maintenance Arrangements

Maintenance Contract for Twin Waters

Sunshine Coast Council appointed The Maintenance Company to provide maintenance of the public areas within Twin Waters.  The Maintenance Company, is Sunshine Coast based with extensive contracts on the whole of the Coast.

The Maintenance Company vehicles can be seen in all areas of Twin Waters as their staff provide lawn, garden and bush care.

History of the Landscape Maintenance Program

7th August 2005

The maintenance of Twin Waters, after the departure of Lend Lease, was an issue of concern to residents. It has always been recognised that the Twin Waters Residential Development had a higher standard of public landscaping than prevails generally across Maroochy Shire. Lend Lease established and maintained this to assist with their marketing of the development. This was beneficial for marketing purposes, and attractive for the early residents at Twin Waters. However, the question has always been what would happen as the development progressed and areas were handed over to Maroochy Shire Council (MSC) and, in particular, what would happen when Lend Lease finally leaves and provides no on-going maintenance of the public landscaping.

The matter has been the subject of informal discussion for several years. In 2003, the Twin Waters Residents Association established a formal sub-committee, the Future Maintenance Committee (FMC). The FMC has co-ordinated a large amount of work over the period since then to develop options and facilitate a solution that was likely to provide the best long-term and sustainable outcome for residents.

FMC Core Principles

The FMC developed some core principles that guided its work and assisted with the formulation of possible solutions. These core principles included the following:

Twin Waters was established with a high standard of public landscaping and, once handed over to MSC, the MSC would not maintain it to the same standard. Unless something was done, the standard would inevitably decline until it was no different to the average which prevails throughout the Maroochy Shire.

The majority of residents at Twin Waters would prefer to maintain a higher standard of public landscaping (but not necessarily identical to that established by Lend Lease) to assist to preserve the amenity of the area and the value of properties at Twin Waters.

Any solution needed to be fair and equitable between all residents and capable of long-term sustainability. It should also be cost effective.

The first principle acknowledges that MSC, in common with all local government authorities, seeks to provide a uniform standard of services across its local government area. Local governments generally do not differentiate services according to property values or rates collected. All residents receive the same level of rubbish collection, park and road maintenance and so on. The fact that Twin Waters was established with high-standard and high-maintenance landscaping to assist with the marketing of the area did not require MSC to continue to maintain such standards once they became responsible for the area. The validity of this was confirmed at the outset by the FMC and accepted as a core principle for the consideration of future options.

The second principle reflected widely held views amongst residents. The attractive landscaping in the area had contributed to the initial decision to buy and people wanted to preserve the amenity of the area into the future. It was also recognised that the high standard of public landscaping contributed to the value of individual properties and that this should be preserved rather than allowed to run down.

The third principle was adopted to test possible solutions. Any solution needed to be fair between all residents and should be capable of working successfully for many years into the future. It should also have a reasonable cost. This principle caused “self-help” or volunteer solutions to be ruled out because of their obvious lack of fairness and sustainability.

Some of the Options Considered

Initially, the FMC considered that the kinds of issues faced at Twin Waters must have been dealt with elsewhere in Queensland and the precedent might assist us with a solution. However, correspondence with the Queensland Department of Local Government revealed that there were no such precedents and that we would need to develop our own solution.

A very wide range of options were developed for consideration by the FMC, including options for some or all of the maintenance to be taken over by the community and then contracted out; options for voluntary schemes such as “Adopt-a-Park” that are available within Maroochy Shire and supported by MSC; other forms of voluntary partnerships with MSC similar to that adopted by Noosa Waters with Noosa Shire Council and arrangements involving a levy by MSC with the funds used for additional services whether by MSC services or by contractors.

A number of workshops were held over an extended period to explore the feasibility of the options. These workshops also included representatives from Lend Lease. Lend Lease has always supported the initiatives to find a permanent long-term solution as they were keen to see the standards established at Twin Waters maintained in the future and they wanted a blue-print that could possibly be incorporated into any of their future development projects.

As the range of feasible options narrowed, it became clear that any realistic option would need the support and involvement of the MSC. The MSC was brought into the process and they participated with the FMC and Lend Lease in the formulation of the final solution.

Work of the FMC

The FMC took the lead in initiating the entire process to develop a solution to the issues for Twin Waters. In addition to fostering workshops to develop and review options, the FMC undertook a considerable amount of work to document the existing public landscape at Twin Waters (written descriptions and digital photographs), develop categories of areas that required future maintenance and consideration of realistic desired standards that could be sustainable in the future without significant compromise of standards.

This work by the FMC was assisted by Lend Lease who provided details of the current maintenance services provided under their existing landscape maintenance contract. MSC also provided details of their standard service levels provided for comparable residential areas across Maroochy Shire. The product of this work were detailed schedules of landscape maintenance services for different categories of areas (e.g. large parks, small park, nature strips, round-abouts etc) and classified according to three standards – existing Lend Lease standards, possible FMC standards and existing MSC standards.

This analysis enabled a detailed understanding of the potential gap between MSC standards and desired FMC standards to be developed. The MSC provided information on the costs involved in closing the gap. Ultimately, this analysis has provided the basis for the Special Benefit Levy that was included in the MSC 2005 / 06 Budget.

The proposed solution also includes a Charter between the MSC and the TWRA which will formally document the agreed arrangements. The Charter will provide the framework for the management of the arrangements and includes provision for Reference Group to monitor the arrangements and consult with the MSC on a regular basis. The Reference Group, which will include three representatives from the Twin Waters community, is an important forum to ensure the on-going sustainability and acceptability of the arrangements to the Twin Waters community.

Consultations and Communication

The process of developing the solution to the issues for Twin Waters has involved extensive consultation, as described above. The work of the FMC has been reported on a regular basis to the meetings of the TWRA and included in information posted on the TWRA web site.

An initial community survey in November 2003 provided valuable information and feedback to the FMC. Following final development and presentation of the proposed arrangements, the MSC provided a detailed survey and feedback form to all residents and ratepayers. This survey indicated majority community support for the proposed scheme along the lines that had been developed.

The local area councillor, Councillor Tony Northey, was briefed on the proposed arrangements as they were finalised and participated in some of the key meetings to settle the final arrangements.

Approval and Implementation

At all times, it was acknowledged that the final approval of the proposed arrangements, including the final amount of the Special Benefit Levy, was the sole responsibility of the MSC. (Authority for a Special Benefit Levy is granted under provisions of the Local Government Act). The Twin Waters Special Landscape Levy was announced in the MSC’s 2005-2006 Budget, with the amount of the levy set at $96 per property for 2005 /2006.

The arrangements have now been implemented. The MSC is considering the possibility to contract out the maintenance services required. The Reference Group will be established shortly.

In Conclusion

The TWRA acknowledges and thanks those who have contributed to developing and achieving this solution, including the members of the FMC, representatives of Lend Lease and MSC. The TWRA believes this solution will enable the high standards of public landscape at Twin Waters to be maintained for many years to come.

7th August 2005

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