18 Jan 2016

Patience wearing thin over Kaikoura civic building

6:22 am on 18 January 2016

Kaikoura is finally due to get a new civic building this year but delays and a budget blow-out has meant not all of the locals are happy about it.

no caption

Photo: 123RF

Kaikoura is the second smallest council district in the country and some of the 2900 ratepayers are wondering how they are going to pay for a building which is already well over budget.

The three-storey building will house the council offices, a museum and a library, and the facade will be shaped to resemble a huge craypot.

The building was expected to cost $4.37 million but the final bill for ratepayers is now anticipated to be at least $1m over that.

This time last year the council said the building would be finished within weeks, but over a year later work is still underway.

Kaikoura man Tony Blunt was so concerned about the project that he decided to run for council.

He said even as a councillor he had still struggled to get information on the project, and said what he had found had not reassured him.

"There are still questions around why the cost overrun as big as it is, and why certain contracts were written the way they were," said Mr Blunt.

"Some of [the contracts] them are quite unusual. In my view some of the contracts have not been written particularly well. There was no fixed price contract, no deadline."

Kaikoura pharmacist Dave McKee said he thought the concept for the building was great and that the building would ultimately be an asset for the town, but there had been too much secrecy over the spending of public money.

He said the council had not adequately explained to ratepayers what the problems were.

"Scaffolding has been up for such an extended period of time, there are obviously problems. Communication has been minimal, to say the least, and in a small town silence breeds rumours. If something has gone wrong the people who are paying for it should be told."

Roofing material fault

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said the project had been a challenge but overall it had been managed well.

He said a fault with the roofing material meant the roof had to be redone, and that was the main cause of the delay and increased costs.

Mr Gray said because they were going to lodge an insurance claim for that fault, they had to limit the information they released.

"Of course once we go into an insurance claim a lot of information is privy. So that's my concern as mayor. People may say we aren't acting in the best interest of the ratepayers. I say we are. We need to protect our investment there."

He said in the last three months all council discussions on the civic building had been in public.

Mr Gray said the total cost of the building was now standing at around $6.6m but he expected the insurance claim would reduce that by about $1m.

While that was still more than initially budgeted he did not expect rates to be increased to cover it, for now.

"We've got reserve funds in hand. We've got our existing [council] property that we can either lease and/or sell, and in the meantime we have reserves which should cover the shortfall. Also possibly some borrowing until we sell some property."

He said that as of December the council had been working through the issue, and it did have options.

Mr Gray now hoped the building would be finished and ready for use by April, but said after previous set backs he was not willing to commit to that date at this stage.