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The civic saga continues: Is it pause, or push play?

Masterton’s Civic Centre saga continues with the latest request to pause the project rejected. MARY ARGUE reports.

Rejected, but hope for redemption remains for the five councillors opposing Masterton’s Civic Centre project.

Masterton District Councillor Gary Caffell confirmed a Notice of Motion [NoM] calling for a halt on the project had been thrown out in light of a forthcoming chief executive report.

The NoM, signed by the five councillors who voted against the proposed civic centre – Bex Johnson, Tim Nelson, Chris Peterson, David Holmes and Caffell – was delivered to the chief executive last week.

The notice requested a pause to “all aspects” of the civic facility project until after October’s local body elections and a report by chief executive

David Hopman outlining the implications of such a move.

The councillors cited numerous reasons for a pause, including an increased budget, the lack of location, “the huge discontent in the community”, and the division at the council table, which split six, five in favour of a new centre.

Caffell said he received a response from Hopman yesterday, refusing to accept the NoM.

Hopman said the mayor directed him to refuse because a report would be delivered at the next council meeting on May 18 addressing the issues raised, “including a pause of the civic facility project”.

Caffell said the decision was disappointing as councillors were yet to see the report, but he accepted the assurance given by Mayor Lyn Patterson.

A spokesperson for the council said Wednesday’s meeting agenda would not be available until Monday morning.

Caffell said councillors had suggested a pause on the project until after local body elections numerous times.

“There is so much indecision and uncertainty.

“I think it would be absolutely remiss of any councillor now to support it with the price tag going up.”

He said he was optimistic that the report would recommend halting any project decisions until after October.

“It would be crazy to burden any new council with it.”

Councillor Bex Johnson said she was disappointed that every initiative to pause had been knocked back.

She said it was the third rejection in the past year, citing a NoM that requested community consultation in July 2021 and an application by Caffell earlier this year, which was thrown out on a technicality.

“It’s been constantly rejected. All we’re trying to do is revisit and talk to the community.

“How can the community engage on something they know nothing about?”

Johnson said a lot of time and money had been wasted that the community would never recoup.

She said the report would be the last chance for councillors to reconsider their support for the project.

“Common sense has not prevailed. This is the last chance.”

Councillor Tim Nelson believed the whole process should have been halted well before now. He said speculation of a budget blow-out, reportedly almost double the original $30 million price tag, was the final nail in the coffin.

“It’s a whole other reason to pause until the upcoming elections.

“I just find it astounding that we are at this point, almost three years after [the original vote], and we have made no progress.”

Nelson said he was looking forward to reading the chief executive’s report and said a detailed analysis of the project should be undertaken “from the time the town hall was declared unsafe until now” and be made available to the new council.

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