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Bid for review fails

A MOVE to have Gisborne District Council’s decision to rebuild its administration centre in Fitzherbert Street subjected to an independent review has failed after a notice of motion was defeated by nine votes to five following a protracted debate yesterday. See also today's editorial

Calls for the council to show common sense and a suggested option presented by councillor Roger Haisman failed to change the mind of any of the councillors in the face of a warning that proceeding with a review could delay the project until 2018 and incur significant extra costs.

When councillors were polled for a division only the five who had signed the notice of motion, Pat Seymour, Roger Haisman, Amber Dunn, Graeme Thomson and Bill Burdett, voted in favour. All the others voted against.

Speaking to her notice of motion, Pat Seymour said there was sufficient concern in the community that this was the only sensible option.

The council should not be embarrassed, it had reversed significant decisions before, including the proposed landfill at Mander Road and the scope of the wastewater treatment plant.

The council needed to have a good, hard look at what was the most cost-effective option to arrive at a safe administration complex. It might be that the 1954 building would be sacrificed and a new two-storey one built in its place. The council had an obligation to consider the sustainable use of its buildings.

She urged all councillors to support an independent review.

Roger Haisman said if he owned the buildings as a private person he would not demolish the whole lot. The only problem with the 1980 building was that part of it was used for civil defence.

“This building is a sound building and will last for years and years,” he said.

His proposal was that the council demolish and rebuild the 1954 building for which a price of $3.4 million had been given. The top floor could be made open-plan and used for a civil defence emergency building.

To his mind there was no reason the 2001 building could not be strengthened. However it had not been used for two or three years and was not actually needed.

GHL directors likely relievedGHL directors would heave a huge sigh of relief that they were no longer committed to having to borrow $12.5 million. He had no problem with the technical data supplied over the past four years, the problem was they had never been given any other option.

“This building is a nice building,” he said referring to the council chambers “it does not need a bean spent on it. If you want to call yourself responsible councillors you want to consider that proposal.”

Rehette Stoltz said she was comfortable with the extensive decision making process the council had carried out. The council had decided unanimously to build a future-proof, eco-friendly facility in line with its earthquake policy. Nothing had changed since the debate started in 2011 and she struggled to support an independent review.

Graeme Thomson said they were talking about an option that could save $6 or $7m. It might not have the good looks of a trendy building or have the same functions but it would do the job.

You had to be living in a different land to believe you could borrow $12m and it would not cost anything. It would cost ratepayers somewhere down the track.

Andy Cranston said it was ridiculous for Mr Haisman to propose an alternative at the 11th hour. His figures were just a guesstimate, and he was very uncomfortable the way this had come to a head. What was driving it concerned him the most.

A survey that showed 88 percent opposed to the proposed design had nothing to do with the rebuild. He did not take the credence in those surveys the public did.

The long-term view was that the council needed “new tyres not retreads”. There was a danger that the coucil was looking at professional jealousy and some political agendas.

Bill Burdett said the council had got it wrong with project decisions in the past with projects that caused huge concern but at the end of the day common sense prevailed. When people like the Chamber of Commerce had concerns he thought, “I am in the right corner with this one”.

Brian Wilson said it did not surprise him that people would be against the council spending $12.5m to re house staff.

No idea of long-term aimHe did worry there were councillors against this project and there did seem to be a case to have another look as they did not have a bottom-line strengthening cost. But he did not like the way it was being done by proposing a review with no idea of what that entailed or its long-term aim. A complete rebuild would future-proof the council.

He could not support the notice of motion because he did not know exactly what it meant. The way to do it was to have it discussed at another council meeting at which staff could present a paper and everyone could make a rational decision.

Amber Dunn said this was about saving lives and having the best possible cost, and that was the reason she supported the notice of motion. The Chamber of Commerce had given them a basic frame for a term of reference.

She wanted reassurance that Fitzherbert Street was a safe and appropriate location for a civil defence headquarters. She wanted to know if any of the buildings were dangerous. They also needed to ne sure they had canvassed all alternative building options.

Chief executive Judy Campbell said the council had consulted with the public on a rebuild as part of the ten-year plan. If it wanted to change it had to go back to the public. There was a five-month period leading up to an election where the council should not make a significant decision. This would put the process back to early 2017.

The project would have to be retendered, an alternative option would not kick in until early 2018 and the council would be adding to the new option all of the wasted costs of the first. This was the 12th hour not the eleventh.

It was not the staff desire to have a new building, they were happy to do whatever the council wanted. But she worried that the delays might mean the strengthening and repairs would cost as much as a rebuild and they would be left with a patched-up older building.

Larry Foster said the difference between strengthening and rebuilding was $600,000. The council was looking at a building that was going to save $30 million over 50 years. “I think we are being railroaded by ulterior motives.”

He was proud the building would have a waka design and said "do it once and do it right".

Craig Bauld said he was charged with the responsibility of looking at the long-term best view for the ratepayers of this district. They had been through a process that said this was it. There were people in the community who had been led to believe this was about trying to save the ratepayers money when actually they were costing themselves money.

New chief executive tasked to save moneyThey had hired a brand new chief executive and asked her to find ways to save money and she had. Never before had he seen hordes of people in Gisborne demanding that he put their rates up.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown said as a proponent of participatory democracy she was pleased to see that people were passionate about the situation. It was a pity the council had not engaged the public earlier and needed to look at how it consulted.

Her main concern was what was the impact on the poorest in the community. She wanted to put aside emotion and do what was best for the region. She had rung two mayors elsewhere who both supported a rebuild.

She believed the council had done due diligence and the staff deserved a safe building.

Josh Wharehinga said he did support some sort of relook but not an independent review because the council had put in a lot of time and the work involved had been independently reviewed numerous times. He could not support a review that had no details and no money attached to it.

It would be disingenuous to encourage the community to achieve 100 percent compliance with earthquake standards and not aim for that themselves.

Alan Davidson said he could not support a review. He could not see any flaws in the process to date. The Chamber of Commerce supported a review but it had also supported selling the Tauwhareparae Farms. He could not see what an independent review would achieve.

Mayor Meng Foon said he had no problem with the transparency, which had been going on for five years. It had been peer-reviewed many times.

The 2001 building was built so everybody could be on the same site. He was comfortable with the process they had been through. Architects who had quoted on this said it was cheaper to bowl it over and start again. Thirty million dollars was a lot to save the ratepayer.

GHL could write off the interest on the loan and the council would not have to depreciate the building. That could end up to be about $18 million. That was a tonne of money.

The council was charged with looking after the long-term interests and welfare of the district.

In her right of reply Pat Seymour said the notice of motion was not relevant to the GHL ownership or the waka design. There was no reason why a repaired building would not have a 50-year life. What they were talking about was the most appropriate building at the best cost.

Allowing the notice of motion would let council staff come back with what that review might look like. If it was not what they wanted there would be a second chance to knock it back. She urged the council to support a review. There had been enough matters raised to behove the council to have another look.

See today's editorial

Proposed new council building. Councillors heard that proceeding with a review could delay the project until 2018 and incur significant extra costs, and voted not to proceed with a review.