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Not in NSW: New eco path opened

Rob's picture

By Rob - Posted on 09 July 2010

Well, of course it's not in NSW Sad

OK, so this isn't the sort of path we want around these parts anyhow, but local authorities do sometimes build this sort of thing. However, NSW authorities are once again put to shame by their inter-state peers.

You see, this 17km project in outback Australia cost $330,000. While Warringah council have just engaged a local contractor to build 850m (yes, that's less than 1km) of trail, boardwalk and viewing platforms for the princely sum of $2,072,191 (with the opportunity for %15 rise if the contractor feels like it).

$330K for 17km = $19.4K per km. This is pretty much in line with the usual trail building estimates.
$2.07m for 850m = $2,435K ($2.4m) per km.

What a joke!

Anyhow, feel free to enjoy the story of how things should be done below...

The 17km path and a second viewing platform at Ormiston Gorge were officially opened by Parks and Wildlife Minister Karl Hampton on Wednesday.

The projects were both completed by local contractors at a cost of $330,000 and are part of the Henderson Governments $8 million tourism stimulus package.

More on that path here:

BTW, Ormiston Gorge is a beautiful place:


Hop fiend's picture

shake my head in utter sorrow!!!!

Rob's picture

OK, here's another way to look at the incredible cost of Warringah Council's path:

1 gram of gold can plate about 160 square inches according to

Update: Original calculation was a bit off due to being tired, fixed numbers...

160 square inches is 0.1032 square metres. So you need about 5 grams of gold to plate 1 metre of 50cm wide path. 50cm is wide enough to ride down, right? So put 850 x 5 gram gold plated tiles together and that'll give you a gold plated path 850m long and 50cm wide.

How much would that cost at current market prices? Well, it's 4250g or 4.25kg of gold, which is $164K USD according to Wolfram Alpha.

$164K USD is currently $188K AUD.

So look at that. You could actually build this path from gold plated tiles waaaaaaay cheaper than the price Warringah council are going to pay... and still have... well... most of the budge left over for seats, the underlying base metal, etc.

In fact, the above is for a nice 50cm wide single track. You could actually make the path the full council spec. (2.5m wide - which neither bike riders nor bush walkers want) for 5 times that, which is still only $940K or less than half the cost quoted.

Now, is that ridiculous or what?

herzog's picture

Sometimes I wonder if Mountain Biking was renamed something like "Eco Cycling", all of our trail access issues would suddenly disappear.

Hop fiend's picture

relative of a counciler or general manager or is the trailwork based on the schools building program of Rip Offs?!?!

FLY's picture

Looks to be an outrageous waste of MY and other rate payers money.

I see why they are crying poor and will charge me for my 2nd parking sticker this year.

beroccaboy's picture

Email them under Government Information (Public Access) ... also ask how the selection was made ...

Rob's picture

Why it should bother all MTB riders in the area is this...

... one of the biggest arguments councils (and not just this one to be fair - other authorities do it too) throw about when asked about providing more riding facilities is that they don't have the resources. Either to pay for professional trail builders or to supervise volunteers.

Two million dollars would pay for an awful lot of trail maintenance days:

Say the average ranger costs $100k p/a to employ (which is actually more that enough to pay for one going on a job ad. I just read). There are 249 working days in the year... so that's around $400 per day. So two million dollars buys 5,000 days of trail maintenance. Or one a week for the next 100 years!

Two million dollars would buy an awful lot of professionally built track:

Professional trail builders often quote a ballpark of $20-30k per kilometre of trail. So two million dollars buys between 70-100km of the sweetest single track you'll ever see. A lot, lot more if they use volunteer labour, partly re-use existing trails, are working on easier land, etc..

Or would you rather have 850m of 'path' by Narrabeen lake?

b.utters's picture

This sort of thing is a pet hate for me (I'm a cost planner/ Quantity surveyor), people don't understand what goes into constructing things. People are always quick to point out base material costs and how much they think a project should cost. Also just like the current BER Schools program, everyone grabs average building costs and throws them about like they know what they are talking about whilst ignoring the fact that these costs are "average" and often don't even come close to reflecting actual construction costs.

So heres a bit of food for thought using the gold example above-

Sweet as you've just paid for half of the materials needed to build the track. Now you just have to figure out how much the following will cost:

- Getting gold plating onto a paver or something which will not disintegrate as soon as a bike rides over it
- Someone to desgin and produce documentation (plans) for the track
- Fencing and space to store materials (you don't wnat gold pavers stolen)
- Fencing to keep people out of the site
- Transporting materials to the site
- Labour to build the track
- Tools to build the track
- Plant and machinery hire to cut, smooth and pack the area
- Removal of waste materials
- A base layer (gravel/sand etc) for the pavers to be placed on


This list is by no means exhaustive but it gives you some idea of what must be paid for in order to build just a cycle track. Also remember that nothing is free and all of these factors will have a profit margin tacked onto them.

Rob's picture

@b.utters... yes... to a point.

The 'paved with gold' was something a bit silly to get the point over.

The example of the trail from central Australia is most certainly not a silly example. I'm sure they have all those factors you list there and yet manage to build their infrastructure for a lot less.

A lot of the cost presumably has to do with the fact council want the 'path' 2.5m wide and constructed from heavy material. That's basically a road - hardly something to let one experience nature, is it?

All that aside, see the point about 'Resource Allocation' and ask yourself if it's this hard and this expensive to build 850m of path in this particular location, shouldn't the funds be used elsewhere where they would go much, much further, in both senses of the word?

......'s picture

wow. This is amazing. I appreciate running government is hard work, but sometimes i wonder!!!

Nerf Herder's picture

I like the gold analogy ... however, the remaining $+1.8M is obviously labour ... Sydney labour ... presuming Northern Beaches labour ... so thats about right innit

Rob's picture

... here:

I like the way Rik Hart basically says, "Oh - it's federal/state government money we are wasting, so no drama".

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