Kaikoura Star - Civic centre breeding mistrust among ratepayers

Kaikoura news
Tuesday, November 17, 2015

At my recent 'meet the MP' evening in Kaikoura, it was clear that ratepayers are very concerned about the new civic centre and the issues surrounding the build.

This is an issue that constituents contact me about weekly. The build is more than a year behind the initial date set for completion and, many believe, shrouded in secrecy in terms of cost.

After several delays both in building and in the release of reports that should clarify the cost of those delays, things appear to be coming to a head.

The lack of public information is breeding mistrust among ratepayers and rumours are rife.

At the heart is this the fact the civic building is being built with public money, ratepayers' money.  Ratepayers absolutely have a right to know where, and how, their money is being spent.

Yet despite ongoing calls for more information about issues such as spending on faulty roof insulation and a subsequent insurance claim, answers have not been forthcoming.

It appears that nobody really knows how much it's going to cost – even council – and I fear that the ratepayers of Kaikoura are going to be put in a pretty difficult position of having to pay an unknown amount for this project.

The way the project is being managed is of great concern. It seems to be at this stage lacking in detail, such as the contract with the builder – if there was one – and the cost.

Then there is the question of whether the building will meet code.

There appears to have been no regular monitoring and reporting to council from the project manager, and council's agendas have lacked written reports on the issue. A report by property valuers and building surveyors Prendos is reportedly damning of the project.  This report was expected in July, but was not received by council chief executive Stuart Grant until early September.

It has not been released to the public, with council stating it is being kept confidential apparently while a right of reply is being sought from parties mentioned.

The public has a right to know what is in this report and it should be made available for all ratepayers to read.

This is a project that has been controversial from the start. Three years ago, almost 800 signatures opposed the civic centre, which many said lacked public consultation.

The Kaikoura District Council pressed ahead with plans for the centre despite a number of submissions to the Long Term Plan asking the council to rein in spending.

Even councillors feel like they are being left in the dark, with Councillor Derrick Millton calling the process undemocratic, as reported in this newspaper.

Once completed, the West End building will house council offices, a museum and library and it will be embellished with local artwork and features that reflect Kaikoura's environment and culture.

It should be an impressive and well-used asset for the people of Kaikoura.

It is time the Kaikoura District Council front up to ratepayers with clear answers about where, and how, their money is being spent.

This needs to be answered sooner rather than later.