Cuts to Government Architect will damage Victoria

The Australian Institute of Architects has said that the unexplained massive cut in funding to the Office of the Victorian Government Architect will damage Victoria.

Victorian Chapter President of the Institute, Bill Krotiris, has said the substantial cut in funding from $1.3 million per annum to $700,000 per annum came without warning and risks leaving many State Government projects, and other key planning initiatives each year without critical considered advice.

“The Victorian Government and our community, with the OVGA’s involvement,  have avoided many undesirable design outcomes that would have left communities with major white elephants. The OVGA have delivered critical advice to the Victorian Government and taxpayers for sixteen years. This critical advice is about how to maximise the economic efficiencies of government procurement and outcomes in relation to the Victorian Government’s many major projects including worthy centrepieces such as the Big Housing Build and the Royal Children’s Hospital”.

Government’s own indicators and a recent independent economist’s report show the OVGA is working above the government’s performance targets and have not identified anything but great value.

The cuts will place at risk the OVGA’s internal advisory team’s services as well as the entire Victorian Design Review Panel (VDRP) which has delivered advice on more than 300 projects of state significance and major icons such as the Melbourne and Olympic Parks projects. This is about the whole of Victoria, as the OVGA also plays a critical role in significant regional projects, such as the Sale Cultural Hub and Bendigo Hospital. In the three years to 2021 alone the OVGA has advised or collaborated with 187 Victorian projects of State Significance worth more than $25 billion.

A British study analyzed the whole of life costs of a typical project. Operating costs make up 85% of the cost, maintenance 9-12%, construction 2-3% (building it), whilst design is only a fraction of these costs at 0.3-0.5%. The impact of good design decisions being built-in are significant savings for those larger ongoing operating and maintenance costs and significant long-term benefits to both society and users of the building. If you consider this design benefit over just the last three years of reviewed projects valued at $25 billion, the OVGA’s advice is of considerable value to the State into the long-term future.

The Institute says that through the internal team at OVGA and almost 90 VDRP panellists including relevant expert Architects, Urban Designers and Landscape Architects, the Victorian community has also received more than $20 million of actual construction project risk savings. Moreover, the model of design review which the OVGA pioneered in Victoria is now being established in local Victorian councils, with advice and support from the OVGA, to ensure that design advice is provided for important local projects that otherwise would not be able to be assessed by OVGA as they are not of state significance.

The OVGA was established by the Bracks-Brumby Labor Government in 2006 with renowned architect John Denton appointed as the inaugural Victorian Government Architect. Some of the OVGAs’ many resources and publications such as Government as Smart Client are well recognised around Australia and referenced internationally.

The government should be increasing the funding of the OVGA to ensure taxpayers’ money is used appropriately and for our collective benefit, not slash the already low base of funding by over 40%. The Victorian Government has stated they wish to leave a legacy, with this decision we question what type of legacy this will be.

Mr, Krotiris said,

“We are aware the OVGA will be left with a skeleton staff. It is incomprehensible with the important capital projects the Victorian budget is delivering in health, social housing, education and the Commonwealth Games that the Department of Premier and Cabinet will cut off its own hand and be stripped of the independent design advice provided by its own Government Architect Office.”

He added that,

“Just as the Victorian Government has moved to spend $13 million in the next two years on its Trade Mission Program including a new trade and investment office in Paris, an important local institution which has served the public well is almost being wiped out. Victoria is also a recognised design capital and this move will serve to damage its reputation and the delivery of key outcomes of great design including liveability, health and sustainability.”

For media enquiries contact:

Tim Leslie FRAIA, Victorian State Manager, Australian Institute of Architects

+61 (0) 400 560 792 | tim.leslie@architecture.com.au

or

Fiona Scott | on behalf of the Australian Institute of Architects

+61 (0) 407 294 620 | fiona@fjpartners.com.au