A Victorian city says the NBN left it with up to $40 million worth of damage to clean up

The late Diana Princess of Wales on a stagecoach at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, in 1983. Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images

A regional city in Victoria has claimed the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) left it with millions of dollars worth of damage in local infrastructure to repair.

A federal parliament joint committee on the NBN heard yesterday that City of Ballarat council staff estimated it would cost at least $13 million to restore 6,500 individual items such as roads, footpaths and property boundaries to their original condition before the network rolled into town.

Local paper The Courier has previously reported incidents of NBN staff damaging fences, ignoring heritage rules, and covering properties in concrete, exemplifying a total damage that bill that the council now says could reach as high as $40 million.

Back in 2015, after Ballarat council demanded compensation from the NBN, the national network paid $99,600 to repair the infrastructure damage.

Council infrastructure and environment director Terry Demeo yesterday claimed that telecommunications providers did not seem to be held to the same level of responsibility as other utility providers like water and electricity companies.

“Water boards, Powercor and other parties are obliged to get a road opening permit from council when they want to install a piece of infrastructure,” he said. “We are able to condition those permits to ensure the reinstatement of property is within our standards.”

Demeo, according to iTnews, expressed frustration at the treatment of the city in the hands workers contracted by the NBN and said the council had “limited” success in enforcing a base level of quality in the work performed.

“The experience in Ballarat – very bluntly – has been that we’ve had exceptionally poor service by the subcontractors to the major contractors that are doing the [NBN] installation, such that we have 6,500 outstanding reinstatements, some of which have been visited 3-5 times for further work and remain less than satisfactory,” he said.

An NBN spokesperson told Business Insider that the organisation had acted in accordance with legislation and “continues to discuss the matter with council”.

“NBN has already taken action with its delivery partners in Ballarat to address prior concerns related to the construction program,” the spokesperson said.

“NBN is confident that any new concerns that may arise are being addressed as soon as they are notified.”

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