Nielsen Park beach upgrades delayed as NSW government fires engineering firm

National parks staff emailed residents with news, citing lack of progress on the site, before contractors say they were told

There is no end in sight for construction works at one of Sydney’s most popular beaches after the New South Wales government quietly tore up its contract with a civil engineering firm hired to build a new sea wall without notifying the company.

After months without significant progress at Neilsen Park’s Shark Beach, the state’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) on Thursday evening announced a new contractor would be brought in to prevent coastal erosion over the summer.

The project will then be re-listed for tender next year, before a new completion date is announced.

A NPWS manager this week informed frustrated residents of the news via email, more than 24 hours before the engineering firm, Delaney Civil, was alerted to the news by Guardian Australia.

“The sea wall works are not moving as quickly as any of us would like,” the NPWS employee wrote in Wednesday afternoon correspondence seen by Guardian Australia.

“The Department of Planning and Environment has terminated its contract with Delaney Civil.

“A different contractor will be engaged to protect the beachfront from coastal erosion while NPWS seeks a tender to complete the works.”

Delaney Civil said news of the termination came as a “surprise”, despite conceding the firm was informed of the termination on 9 December.

A spokesperson for the firm said that given ongoing discussions between the parties, the company did not believe the end of the arrangement had been formalised.

“Delaney Civil was going back and forth with the legal teams and were seeking clarification on the terms of termination as department of planning provided three different avenues of termination,” a spokesperson said.

“Delaney Civil was first informed of the termination [that these negotiations had been unsuccessful] when notified by a reporter from the Guardian.”

A departmental spokesperson denied the firm’s claim that the termination was unclear.

Following questions from Guardian Australia, NPWS released a statement on Thursday afternoon to alert the wider public to the termination.

Construction at the Nielsen Park seawall in Sydney.
Work to upgrade the popular Vaucluse site with a new seawall, improved accessibility and an updated kiosk began in March and was scheduled to be completed in December. Photograph: The Guardian

Signs for the civil engineering firm were still at the site on Thursday and no works appeared to be happening on the seawall, although there were a handful of people working on the usually bustling beachside kiosk.

Sand was being held on the beach with large sandbags and metal structures.

Work to upgrade the popular Vaucluse site with a new seawall, improved accessibility and an updated kiosk began in March, with an initial completion date of December.

In the middle of the year the government upgraded its completion forecast to April 2023 due to poor weather.

Earlier this month the state parks service confirmed it was in discussions with the contractor in relation to delivery of elements of the project after residents raised concerns over the apparent lack of progress being made at the site.

The NPWS employee this week told residents a new completion date would be published once a contract had been awarded.

“A revised completion date will be provided once the new contract is awarded in 2023,” the employee wrote to residents.

“NPWS is seeking to deliver the best long-term outcome for Nielsen Park as soon as possible and in a manner that ensures safety of the community.”

The local MP, Gabrielle Upton, said the delay to the “once-in-a-lifetime” upgrade was “very disappointing”.

“That said, I understand National Parks and Wildlife Service are working very hard to ensure the project is delivered safely and in a way that gets the best outcome for the whole community,” she said.

Residents have since expressed deep concern over how quickly the government would secure a new contractor and when the beloved beach would reopen.

A departmental spokesperson said “the necessary contractual procedures were followed” and Delaney Civil and Delaney Civil was notified of the decision on 9 December.

“A new contractor has been engaged to protect the beachfront from coastal erosion while NPWS seeks a tender to complete the works,” the spokesperson said.


Tamsin Rose

The GuardianTramp

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