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Council united on civic facility

For the first time in years, Masterton District Council has reached a unanimous decision regarding the future of the civic facility project.

At last week’s full council meeting, elected members voted to investigate three options for public consultation in March.

The first option is to proceed / not proceed with a new civic facility, as per the long-term plan, at a cost of about $70 million [contingency-inclusive].

The second option is to use existing assets, including the library, town hall, and recreation centre.

The last option is to do nothing.

In the meantime, council staff would work to develop these options for consultation and investigate the recommended actions put forward by an independent working group.

The work would help inform decision-making and included confirming key principles and scope for the project, future demand profile, and updating the market demand and financial analysis.

The discussion and decision followed the presentation of a report by the independent Civic Facility Working Group.

In the presentation, group member and engineer Andrew Clarke said in reviewing the town hall site, “one thing we noted was that the town was actually planned around that site”.

“It was set out as a cross, and the town hall was in the middle, not saying you have to put it there, but it certainly is a factor you should be considering.”

He said there had been some talk about the facade being “complicated to work around” but had personally found such work unproblematic.

Although a list of recommendations was put forward by the working group, including maintaining an independent working group, Deputy Mayor Bex Johnson moved to note the group’s recommendations instead of accepting them.

She then put forward the options for public consultation.

The move was seconded by councillor Brent Goodwin, who suggested the “do nothing” option.

The decision was supported unanimously by elected members.

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell said the civic facility project had been “a very long process” and was thankful to staff, the working group, and elected members.

“A lot of us have been involved in a very heated debate over the last few years, and it’s just great that we’ve now come to a start as to where we go next.”

Prior to a decision being reached, councillor Tim Nelson said the new council was “a united council”.

“The days of the 6-5 vote, I believe, are truly gone,” he said.

“This group is entirely capable of making decisions to support council staff on our own.

“I think it was incredibly patronising of the last council to suggest that this group needed guidance from an independent group to help us with a decision.”

– 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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