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Consultants cost $220,000

Night markets in the Park St parklet. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

PAM GRAHAM
[email protected]

Masterton District Council is trying to build its expertise in-house after spending about $220,000 on outside consultants on its town centre strategy.

The Times-Age asked for details of the amounts spent on consultants after the issue was raised by Councillor Brent Goodwin.

The council said in the 18-month period from July 2016 to December 2017, it engaged Massey University to undertake consultation on the then-called CBD upgrade at a cost of $99,420, which included work undertaken by subcontractors, Dreamweavers.

The information gathered during this consultation was fed into development of the town centre strategy and action plan.

Urban planning consultant Boffa Miskell was engaged in late 2017 to assist council to develop the town centre strategy and action plan and fees paid to them from January to September last year for phase one of the project were $130,054.

Goodwin estimates the cost of both is more than $300,000 if the time of council staff is included.

“I’m a bit shocked by that for what we’ve got,” he said.

He says about two years ago, council did a similar report, which they didn’t action, that also called for linkages between the CBD and Queen Elizabeth Park to be enhanced.

“It is these linkages that urban landscapers always bang on about. What they miss is the buildings and the tenants which generate foot traffic. They are landscaped-based rather than people-behaviour-based and that is where they go wrong.”

He said the food market in the Park St parklet last week would have worked just as well in the Moore Wilsons car park or Countdown car park.

The council said the Boffa Miskell contract was negotiated in 2017 and it provided a base cost with the opportunity for further consultation and engagement and design rework based on council and community feedback.

Boffa Miskell has built on the consultation done by Massey University and worked with elected members and community groups, consulting on a draft, before delivering the strategy’s concept ideas and options for council’s consideration
and adoption.

The town centre strategy document was adopted by the council on August 8.

The fees paid to Boffa Miskell for phase one were within the budget. The strategy costs have been higher than the original fee proposal due to needing to produce extra iterations of the draft and more extensive consultation and elected member engagement than was originally allowed for in the original fee proposal.

Council chief executive Kath Ross said the council was a small organisation tackling significant projects which would change the face of the district for decades to come.

“Our investment in the design and consultation phases is crucial to achieving a town centre we can all take great pride in,” she said.

“As a small organisation, we don’t always have all the resources in-house or the expert knowledge needed for these significant projects,” she said.

For the town centre project, council used experts to engage with the community to find out what was wanted in public spaces.

“Then we have engaged skilled urban landscape planners help shape the ideas that have been drawn from the community.

“Over the medium term, we would like to grow the council’s internal expertise and capacity to do this work ourselves, but the reality is that a small organisation like ours will always need to purchase specialist advice and support for the work we do on behalf of our communities.”

The town centre strategy was a vision for the transformation of the Masterton town centre over the next 20 years, she said.

“It’s important to get the research and design of the 20-year strategy right.”

1 COMMENT

  1. What planet is Councillor Brent Goodwin on? He said “the food market in the Park St parklet last week would have worked just as well in the Moore Wilsons car park or Countdown car park”. When is Moore Wilson’s carpark or Countdown’s sufficiently empty on a Friday? Why would either company want competition for food items at their doorstep? Why pick on them? Why is he so against anything new and different? So may questions about his comments.

    What I do find interesting is the comment from the Council that Phase One was within budget, a budget presumably voted on by the Councillors at some point in the recent past. Did he vote against it, and this is his opportunity to gain more headlines for his penny-pinching.

    I recommend Councillor Goodwin stands around at the Parklet next Friday and counts heads to calculate how much per head it was costing rate payers …

Comments are closed.

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