5 September 2023

$8 million de-commissioning of Garran Surge Centre begins to return oval to community

| Claire Fenwicke
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Garran Surge Centre entrance sign

After being home to the surge centre for the past three years, the Garran community oval is expected to be back open for public use in mid-2024. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Canberra’s insurance policy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic will be removed from the Territory in the coming months at a cost of around $8 million.

The Garran Surge Centre was built in just over a month at the start of the pandemic, and now it will take about a year to pull it all down and return the oval to the community.

It was decommissioned earlier this year when the ACT Government relinquished its emergency powers, with a tender for someone to take it apart released in August.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said they had been working through how to safely deconstruct the facility and maximise the repurposing and recycling of its materials.

The oval will also be refurbished as part of the process.

Overall, the project is expected to cost $8 million.

“It’s about 50/50 between the actual deconstruction of the surge centre and then the rehabilitation of the oval,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

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The Garran Surge Centre was originally built as an emergency overflow ward but was never used for that purpose.

Instead, it was used for PCR testing, vaccinations and a walk-in centre for COVID-19-positive people.

It won a Global Project Excellence Award but also attracted controversy when a 2021 review found the centre unsuitable for its intended purpose.

Garran Surge Centre in 2023

The Garran Surge Centre was decommissioned in February. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Despite this, Ms Stephen-Smith said she “absolutely” felt the centre had been value for money.

“The ACT Government has no regrets about building the surge centre. We didn’t know what was coming down the track at that point, but the surge centre has played an important role in our pandemic response for the entire three years that it was in operation,” she said.

All useable medical equipment has already been removed from the site. The doors, metal cladding on the roof and walls, fans and lighting equipment will be reused or sold.

Local contractor Manteena has been appointed to deconstruct and recycle the surge centre, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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The next step will be to remediate and refurbish the oval itself, pushing the opening date to mid-2024.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the oval would be better than before with new facilities, modern LED lighting and a drought-tolerant grassed playing surface.

“It is a significant investment in ensuring that this oval is not only returned to community use but is returned … as a high-quality facility,” she said.

“It will need to be top soiled, turf re-laid, the cricket pitch needs to be re-laid, and then given some time to settle.”

A contractor for the oval work is yet to be appointed, but they will also restore the south-west car park.

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