Council to explore private market for Preschool construction and operation

07th May 2024

Armidale Regional Council (ARC) will test the private market to ascertain if opportunities exist with private operators to take over operation of the Guyra Preschool and Long Day Care facility.
At their April meeting, Councillors agreed to commission an Expression of Interest (EOI) to determine if any private childcare providers or developers are interested in operating the current facility, and/or constructing a new facility.
A report to the meeting acknowledged that whilst Childcare was not a core function of Council, the Guyra Preschool and Long Day Care Centre was identified as a facility that is required to support the strategic ambition for future economic growth of the region.
It also disclosed that ARC has received interest from the not-for-profit sector, private operators, as well as building contractors in operating and/or constructing a new childcare centre in Guyra.
However, they have all so far indicated that they could not operate a new service effectively unless Council retired their existing service, understanding that it would not be viable for Guyra to support two Childcare centres at this point in time.
In discussing the recommendation to the meeting, Cr Paul Packham said that he recognised that childcare is a major driver of participation, especially of women, in the economy.
“For too long we have been restricted by the facility currently operating,” he said. “We have to provide the opportunity for the market, or ourselves, to be placed in the best situation to provide those services. It has to be scalable and we have to have a mix, from babes to toddlers and long day care.
“By placing this out on open EOI we are going to come back with a whole bunch of solutions, not necessarily one where this council has to own it or build it, and hopefully it will come with private investment.”
Addressing concerns raised on social media about the proposal and the lack of public consultation, Cr Steve Mepham said it was ‘useless going to public without being armed with information about what is possible’ and that ‘it would be better to undertake that public consultation with a better understanding of what is available and what isn’t’.
Council unanimously endorsed a recommendation to commission an Expression of Interest (EOI) and also agreed to delegate authority to the General Manager to advance discussions with any interested parties and present a shortlist of the proponents back to Council, for consideration at a future meeting of Council.