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New Gisborne District Council building opened

MAYOR Meng Foon defended Gisborne District Council’s controversial new $12.5 million administration centre at yesterday’s official opening.

“Safety is paramount,” he said

“This building is safe for workers, safe for the community, safe for all of us.”

Mr Foon said experts had advised councillors who had made the decision to rebuild during an election.

The decision to demolish the three previous buildings to construct one new building was an easy decision in the wake of the fatal Christchurch earthquake.

Mr Foon said council staff had previously been dispersed over seven different buildings. He apologised for ‘‘losing contact” with council staff.

“We have been a separated family for many years. I hope to see all of you soon.”

He thanked Gisborne Holdings Ltd, the council-controlled trading organisation who built and owns the building, named Awarua, contractors, architects Chow Hill and other workers for completing the project on time and on budget.

“I am very proud of this building.”

Reassessment of buildings following earthquakeCouncil chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said councils throughout the country had reassessed their buildings following the Christchurch earthquake.

Gisborne District Council’s 1954 administration building was vulnerable to earthquake, and there were issues with the other buildings erected in 1980 and 2001.

Councillors had considered the options of repairing or rebuilding and had also looked at other potential sites.

The new building was effective, efficient and safe for staff. It was "awesome" for all staff to be based under one roof.

The building had open public spaces, and council meetings would be live-streamed. Awarua was fit for purpose and was a ‘‘stunning’’ building.

It would bring positive outcomes for the community, she said.

Mr Foon opened the building jointly with Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Proud of the buildingMs Mahuta said New Zealanders could be proud of the building.

It represented the bi-cultural nature of the country and “set the scene” for the Te Ha 1769 sestercentennial commemorations next year.

Ms Mahuta referred to parts of the complex, including the large compass etched into the concrete at the entrance, the waka that hangs above the main entrance, and the Southern Cross and the Union Jack on the national flag, which symbolised ancestors “who came here without fear”.

The Government wanted a strong relationship with local government.

Crucial issues included climate change, regional growth, housing, an ageing population and infrastructure, she said.

Awarua is owned by Gisborne Holdings Ltd, which will lease the building to the council. Awa means pathway and rua means the repository of knowledge.

The new building had a budget of $12.5 million, $11 million for the rebuild and $1.5 million for the temporary staff accommodation needed while it was built.

Awarua is smaller than the buildings it replaces (from 4100m2 to 3100m2) and is a single storey.

Tohunga Derek Lardelli, who came up with the waka concept, said the sides of the building replicated the curves of the waka paddled here and the ships that sailed here.

The waka above the entrance celebrates the region’s dual heritage, “whether we came here through using stars or a compass”.



PATHWAY TO KNOWLEDGE: Staff raise their voices in celebration as Gisborne District Council’s new administrative centre in Fitzherbert Street, Awarua, is opened. Pictures by Liam Clayton
COME ON IN: Mayor Meng Foon and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta cut the ribbon to formally open the new building, as Labour MP Kiri Allan (bottom right) takes a photograph. Picture by Paul Rickard
Part of the crowd at yesterday's opening.
Part of the ceremony at yesrerday's opening.