Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre building, Eden

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment recently commissioned a condition assessment report of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, or ‘wharf building’, as it is locally known in Eden.

The Marine Centre were advised that the report identified a number of issues that posed an immediate risk to the health and safety of tenants and visitors to the site and were asked to undertake repairs. The Marine Centre subsequently appointed a voluntary administrator and commenced actions to vacate the property.

To secure the safety of the public and the tenants, the department has taken immediate steps to terminate the head lease (which as a consequence terminated both the commercial subleases and residential tenancies). The department is working with the tenants to vacate the building.

What has happened? Why has the building been closed?

As part of the NSW Government’s investigation of possible future uses for the Crown land site, we commissioned a condition assessment of the wharf building. This condition report was provided to the Eden Marine Centre Limited, who held the head lease.

This report identified:

  • serious issues including structural faults, electrical faults and fire safety compliance issues that the government deems are posing an immediate risk to tenants’ and public’ safety
  • the building has reached the end of its useful life in the absence of undertaking significant repairs and capital works
  • the cost of repairing and upgrading the existing structure to extend its useful life was estimated to be greater than the cost of demolishing it and rebuilding it.

The voluntary administrator advised that Eden Marine Centre Limited were not in a position to undertake the required repairs and would be vacating the property. As Eden Marine Centre were not meeting the requirements of the head lease, the government has stepped in to protect the public, tenants and the site.

Given the safety concerns and the termination of the sub-leases and residential tenancies, we issued notices for the residential and commercial tenants to vacate the building.

Can I get a copy of the report?

The condition assessment report was provided in confidence to the Eden Marine Centre Limited, who were the head lessee of the building. We will not be publishing this report.

We are aware that the report has been circulated by social media and other channels.

Why didn't the government maintain the building?

The department leased the building to Eden Marine Centre Limited who were the head lessee. Under the lease, Eden Marine Centre Limited was required to maintain the Building, including meeting the cost of all repairs and maintenance.

What does this mean for tenants who had subleases with SCMDC?

On termination of the head lease, all sub-leases were also terminated. It doesn’t matter when the sub-lease was due to expire.

When do the commercial tenants have to leave?

As soon as reasonably practicable.

All commercial tenants were issued notices to cease trading effective from Sunday, 11 October 2020. These tenants have been asked to remove their business and personal items and to vacate the premises on or before 30 October 2020.

Assistance is being offered to commercial tenants to support them vacating the premises.

What is happening to the residents who live in the building?

Due to the safety issues with the Building, the government is offering assistance to allow both residential tenants to immediately relocate to short-stay accommodation.

We are working with each tenant to see what other assistance may be provided.

What is the government doing to help everyone who is impacted?

The government acknowledges how significant this announcement is for tenants in the Building and for the Eden community.

We have reached out to all tenants and have held an initial briefing with them. We will continue to work with the tenants over the coming weeks.

Whilst we can’t force tenants to engage with us, our focus is on:

  • ensuring their health and safety by ensuring they safely vacate the Building (including the removal of their business and personal items)
  • providing assistance to help them move on as best as possible in these circumstances.

Why is this happening now? Can't it wait until after summer or until the subleases expire?

Issues identified in the condition assessment report are deemed by the government to pose an immediate risk to tenant and public safety.  Tenants have been instructed to vacate to ensure their safety and the safety of the public.

Can the building be repaired?

Significant time and additional funding would need to be invested to address the issues in the condition assessment report over and above what is needed to address the immediate health and safety issues.

While no decision has been made, it is likely that the building will be demolished to make the site safe.

What is happening to the NSW Water Police and Australian Border Force?

The Australian Border Force and NSW Water Police occupy a section of the building that was assessed to be in better condition than the rest of the building and did not pose a risk to the health and safety of the tenants or visitors.

These tenants are still expected to move out of the building in late 2020, early 2021.  They have been provided a short-term license agreement to allow them to continue to occupy their premises.

Is the site contaminated?

There are underground fuel tanks that need to be safely removed if a decision was made to demolish the building. Any residual contamination will need to be assessed and remediated in line with current requirements.

How will the site be used in the future?

No decision has been made on the future use of the site.

Updates will continue to be provided to the Eden community through the NSW Port Authority’s Snug Cove updates.  Those interested can register to receive updates to Port Matters Newsletter.

If the building is closed, can the land around it be used?

We have already had suggestions for use of the area around the building, including requests if it can be used for food trucks and as event space through the summer holidays.

These are great suggestions, keeping the space activated and servicing visitors to the town. We are committed to working with key stakeholders, including Bega Valley Shire Council and the Eden Chamber of Commerce to explore options and find workable solutions.

What happens next?

No decision has been made about the future of the buildings, however the likely outcome is that it will be demolished to make the site safe.