Rocky Hill design raises questions | Editorial

One can’t blame Randall Dutaillis Architects for thinking they had the inside running on Rocky Hill museum’s design.

The Goulburn firm worked closely with users over 18 months on various aspects of the proposed redevelopment. In the latter stages the council also asked it to draw up a design for the museum’s extension, based on talks with a working group.

But it would have been highly unusual, if not illegal, for the council to choose this work, without going to tender or through procurement. It’s unclear whether this was the intention but it was certainly made necessary by the Building Better Regions grant guidelines. Under this program, the council had to seek several quotes, backing the ultimately successful $1.25 million application.

Just how they were assessed is not public knowledge. As it was a procurement, falling under $150,000, as opposed to a tender over this amount, the assessment was not reported to councillors, even in a confidential session.

We do not doubt that the panel followed correct procedure, it is just a matter of transparency. The Goulburn Post is aware that some working party members aren’t exactly happy with the design, particularly exhibition space. We are unlikely to hear them say this to the press because the council won’t allow them.

In a similar vein, council management has instructed Crone Architects not to speak to the media about Mr Randall’s claims or the design in general until “after the development application has been approved”. It’s a clear continuation of council management controlling the message. The trouble is, people deserve greater openness. The council will also be assessing the DA and it’s unknown whether it will engage an independent assessor to scrutinise this. The council had not replied to this question by the time of going to press.

History should tell them to do so. Its assessment of the Hetherington Street depot, the council’s own development, came back to bite in a neighbour’s legal challenge about process. The performing arts centre assessment was also found wanting.

We certainly hope Mr Randall is incorrect that the museum’s cost may blow out. For our money, Crone’s design looks pretty grand and fits in nicely with our iconic ‘hill’. But questions of process and transparency must be addressed and the community fully apprised of the project’s cost as it progresses.