Byron Council has refused to release a structural investigation report detailing serious safety issues affecting the ‘Disco Dong’ sculpture on the Bayshore Drive roundabout.
As councillors prepare to vote on a motion to remove the sculpture at this week’s full Council meeting, the report that is likely to inform their decisions has been kept from public view.
It is one of three documents in relation to the sculpture in the agenda to the meeting that Council has refused to release, including information about the possibility of undertaking further work on the beleaguered installation.
Kept confidential for no clear reason
When asked why the structural investigation report was being kept confidential, Council declined to provide a clear answer.
‘Decisions to make attachments confidential are made for a number of reasons, not just on the basis of commercial in confidence and the matter is in any case to be debated by Council next week,’ Council’s director of corporate and community services Vanessa Adams said.
The agenda to this week’s meeting provides a little information regarding the findings of the investigation, noting that people have been climbing the structure and stopping on the road to take pictures. Pieces of the structure had recently been found on the ground.
The agenda item noted that the structural investigation, undertaken on July 16, costing $8,000, found there was a ‘risk of serious personal injury being sustained by a member of the public owing to climbing and falling from the sculpture’.
Added to this was ‘the eventual risk of the sculpture’s structural integrity being compromised’.
Staff estimated the cost of decommissioning the sculpture at between $11,000 and $13,000.
Should the sculpture be removed to storage in a state that would allow reconstruction at a later date, the cost of decommissioning would increase to between $16,000 and $20,000.
Call to remove ‘cloak of secrecy’
Labor councillor Paul Spooner said he would be moving a motion at this week’s meeting for all three confidential documents to be made public.
‘I think there’s a great deal of public interest in the project and there’s no reason for the cloak of secrecy,’ Cr Spooner said.
‘There’s no confidential commercial agreement involved, and the residents and ratepayers of the Shire deserve some answers.’
The Public Art Panel, at a meeting on June 26, recommended that additional money be spent on ‘finishing’ the sculpture.
The estimated cost of this enterprise, including contingencies, is $35,500 according to Council staff.
Notes provided to Council by the artist who created the sculpture, and a report detailing what further work could be undertaken, have also been kept under wraps, with Council refusing a formal request for access by The Echo.
Birds for sale?
Meanwhile, locals have already begun debating what should be done with the statue once it has been decommissioned.
Cr Spooner said he supported decommissioning, and he wanted the council to explore selling off the individual aluminium birds it was made of to recoup some of its costs.
‘I’ve learned that there are 4,000 birds on the scuplture and a further thousand that have haven’t been put up,’ he said.
‘So if we sold each for $20 as a memento we could give half the proceeds [$50,000] back to the public art fund and the other half to improving homelessness services in the Shire.’
See Echonetdaily for updates on the fate of the ‘Disco Dong’.