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Criticism at centre’s cost breakdown

Masterton Ratepayers and Residents Association secretary Lyn Riley and president David Farlow. PHOTOS/FILE

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Masterton District Council has made public the costs of its new $30 million civic facility to date, including a fundraiser with an initial cost of about $30,000.

The council also published its estimate of the price tag for the architects designing the civic centre: $1.85 million.

The breakdown of costs to date included an initial $29,700 price for fundraiser SGL Funding Ltd to raise a minimum of $4 million from external funding.

This fundraising cost was met with scepticism by critics of the civic centre, the Masterton Ratepayers and Residents Association [MRRA].

“The cost of this build – with still no visibility of any land purchase, and no visibility of the geotech survey to see whether the land is even suitable – is an egregious waste of ratepayers’ hard-earned money,” MRRA said on Thursday.

Masterton District Council [MDC] said that once SGL had completed an initial $29,700 feasibility study, the council would commit further budget to the fundraiser to carry out negotiations with potential donors.

MRRA questioned what the total amount allocated to SGL would reach.

“Essentially, we are being asked to pay $30,000 to SGL to work out a strategy on how to raise $4 million that MDC should have already secured funding for before pressing ‘go’…

“So, will it cost ratepayers $1 million to collect $4 million? MDC need to concentrate on core business on behalf of ratepayers given there are so many other issues around town that are in urgent need of repair.”

Tina Nixon

Civic facility project committee chairwoman councillor Tina Nixon said much of the project would rely on fundraising efforts.

“These big projects attract quite a lot of funding, and that’s why we put in place a professional fundraiser,” Nixon said.

She said SGL was the same fundraiser used for the Waihinga Centre in Martinborough.

“Many people will be familiar with them, and I’ve certainly been familiar with them in other projects in the past.”

Nixon said using a fundraiser was a standard way of raising capital for public projects.

“The more successful they are, the less impact there will be on ratepayers. I would have thought it would be seen as a good strategic decision for us to employ one of the best fundraisers in the country to raise funds for a project like this.”

She said that the $4m of external funding allocated to complete the civic facility was “way too low”.

“I think that the project will attract a wide range of funding. We’ve now got in place one of the country’s leading fundraisers, and in due course, we’ll be setting out our expectations for what we think he should be able to raise – and it will be well in excess of the $4m.”

Nixon said that funding sources could come from a variety of places, saying that the library component of the centre could attract one source of funding, and Maori elements of the centre another source of funding.

MRRA questioned how an architect could determine the cost of a design at $1.85m, considering the site was still unknown.

Nixon said that she was working on other projects with the same issue.

“We’ve been working with our architects prior to knowing exactly where we’re going to land the building. Our project manager told all of the councillors that it was not unusual for architects to go fairly far down the track in terms of what a building could be before you know the exact location it’s going to be in.”

She said that a geotech survey of the council’s preferred site for the civic centre – at the northern end of Masterton, bordering Robinson Park – had been completed.

Nixon said the remaining site options MDC was considering might not need geotech surveying.

She said the $1.85m price tag was “very typical” of projects the size of the civic centre.

The lead architect for the facility, Architectus, was announced by MDC in December 2021.

The council confirmed funding for the development of a new civic facility through the adoption of its long-term plan in June last year.

The appointment of a lead architect came after the assignment of a quantity surveyor and fundraiser for the project.

• Additional reporting by Grace Prior

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