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Back to the drawing board

It’s back to the drawing board for Masterton’s civic facility.

The independent working group reviewing the project has left a blank canvas for its future, and will soon present its recommendations on the next steps to council, which meets tomorrow.

In May this year, Masterton District Council voted to pause proceedings on its multimillion dollar civic facility and establish an independent working group to review the project.

Civic Facility Working Group chair Ian Collier said the report was a logical way to analyse council decisions that culminated in a revised cost estimate for the project at $57.14 million [contingency-exclusive], up from the $30.8m provided for in the 2021 long-term plan consultation document. “Our team has revisited activity that has taken place to date around the Masterton Civic Facility project,” he said.

“We have considered and documented the decisions made since the closing of the Masterton Town Hall in 2016 and made recommendations on a way forward with an agnostic eye.

“Our report should provide some clarity for the council to inform their next steps in the project.”

Collier, a former regional affairs manager for Air New Zealand who has held senior management positions across several industries, said he understood how these types of projects could quickly become complicated.

“Civil infrastructure projects are complex pieces of work – with councillors, users, and interest groups all keen to have some input into what they want from a civic facility.

“Often, this means project scope can creep, and with it, costs.

“Our report brings the focus back on the requirements of a civic facility that will be fit for Masterton’s purposes.

“It takes the personalities out of the mix and gets back to the project itself.

“I look forward to seeing how the council moves this project forward for the people of Masterton.”

At the top of the list of recommendations from the working group is to appoint an independent working group, with council representation, to have oversight of the project.

The group would have an independent chair, engineering and construction expertise, mana whenua representation, project management, procurement, funding, communications, and stakeholder engagement experience.

A further 11 points were recommended that could lead to the opening of a civic facility.

Steps include developing a project plan, confirming a future demand profile for proposed facilities, updating the Horwath Market Demand and Financial Analysis Report, determining a budget for the project and buildings directly or indirectly linked to it, and making a decision on the size and scope of the project.

Recommendation 8 is: “Determine potential locations. Reconsider all the decisions made regarding potential sites and links to the Town Centre Strategy.”

Recommendation 9 is: “Consult with the public on proposed option.”

Chief executive David Hopman has recommended councillors accept the working group’s recommendations.

Councillors can also vote to choose alternative next steps for the project. Since July 2020-21 [when the latest civic facility project began], the council has spent $347,055 to May this year.

Total costs to date of the civic facility project since 2016 were not included in the report but have now been requested by Local Democracy Reporting. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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