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Green light for town hub

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

 

Martinborough’s Waihinga Centre has been given the go-ahead.

At a special meeting held yesterday the South Wairarapa District Council approved an increase on the project cost and loan amounts, essentially giving the green light for work to proceed immediately on the new town hub.

But not everyone was happy with the decision, with one councillor refusing to support the loan boost and a number of ratepayers voicing concerns over the project.

The council signed off an addition of $172,000 to the price tag, bringing the total cost for the Waihinga Centre to $5.332m.

That includes a contingency of $200,000 – increased yesterday from $68,000 following comments from councillor Dayle Harwood – which will not be ratepayer funded.

The additional funds will help cover earthquake strengthening of the historic Martinborough Town Hall.

In 2012, it was estimated to cost $900,000 to strengthen the hall, but geotechnical analysis has revealed the hall requires substantial foundation works, bringing the cost to $1.072m.

This sum will be funded by South Wairarapa ratepayers.

Despite concerns raised by ratepayers at yesterday’s meeting, all but one councillor, Lee Carter, approved the budget increase.

Mrs Carter said she did not trust the structural integrity of the town hall, built in 1912, and felt maintaining it could put the community at risk.

The meeting saw at least 50 South Wairarapa ratepayers crowd into the council chambers, with six of them allocated five minutes each to share their views on the project.

Third generation Martinborough resident Christine Webley told the council she was one of the original donors to the project as she saw it would benefit the community, but with ongoing rising costs and a number of other doubts surrounding figures supplied by council she was now neither for nor against the project.

Another speaker, Trish Higginson, asked the council not to rush their decision and to take note of the public’s concerns.

She asked whether other South Wairarapa projects would be jeopardised by the “massive cost overruns” of the Waihinga Centre, and asked council chief executive Paul Crimp if he had “absolute confidence” that ratepayers would not be impacted should the price rise again.

She also questioned whether the reinforced town hall would hold up in the event of a large earthquake.

Former councillor Max Stevens said even when the project was first conceived in 2011, the estimated cost was $5.2m.

He said delays in getting the project off the ground had been an advantage, as there was now significantly more structural engineering knowledge learned from the earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura.

Mr Stevens said 27 per cent of the project cost, totalling $1.4m, had been raised through the community through fundraising and donations.

Ro Griffiths said it was remarkable that the estimations for the project were “just $100,000” short of the final costing.

He said this was “a great outcome”, considering how construction costs had risen over the last few years.

When the centre was complete, it would be “used, loved and enjoyed” by people for many years to come, he said.

Peter Roberts spoke on behalf of the Featherston Residents and Ratepayers Association.

He recalled November 2015, when SWDC said if the community did not support a targeted rate to pick up the project’s remaining $1.3m balance, the project would continue “but not in its current form”.

Mr Roberts said regardless of that resolution, the council were still pursuing the project, having made no changes to its scope.

He said to keep the Featherston Town Square coming in on budget, the council had to reduce the quality of the materials used and omit the centrepiece.

Speaking last, former South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples said the project was large but not “exorbitant or excessive” in today’s measures, considering how many uses the building would lend itself to.

She said South Wairarapa consisted of 10,000 people and more than 6,500 ratepayers, with the majority of those people “not opposed” to the project.

She said it had “unprecedented community support financially”, and those who originally were against the Greytown Town Centre had since admitted it was an asset to the town.

 

What the councillors had to say

 

Mayor Viv Napier said she had been in support of the project from the “word go”. She said getting the project off the ground had been a “very long process” and she was excited to see it go ahead.

 

Deputy Mayor Brian Jephson said he had every faith in the project manager, David Borman, and contractors, and was confident savings on the project could be made along the way. He said the fundraising would “pipe up” again now that a fixed rate was in place.

 

Pam Colenso said it was exciting to finally have a fixed price for the project. She said she had always been a supporter of the centre and couldn’t wait to see it come to fruition. Even though the loan was higher than first thought, ratepayers would not be impacted which was a good thing, she said.

 

Pip Maynard said the community’s safety was paramount, and the council had to be certain the multi-facet building would be up to code. She noted that after the strengthening work had been carried out, the hall would be 100 per cent of the earthquake standard.

 

Colin Olds said he initially had some reservations surrounding the project, but these had been laid to rest following discussions with project consultants and contractors. The recent geotechnical analysis also eased his concerns regarding how the town hall would stand up to a severe quake.

 

Dayle Harwood said the contingency of $68,000 was “far too low” for a project of such scope, and recommended that be raised to $200,000 as council had previously been advised to do.

 

Colin Wright said it was important that every community had a town centre. He said projects of a similar nature to the Waihinga Centre were always controversial. The funding to the project had been “somewhat complex”, however so many resources had been poured into the Waihinga Centre, it would be irresponsible for him to oppose the increased loan.

 

Lee Carter said she once supported strengthening the town hall, but now thought pulling it down could be the safest option. She said it appeared the majority of ratepayers at the meeting were against council approving the project price rise. She was “not convinced” the prices were final and did not want to have “CTV building” scenario on her conscience.

 

Margaret Craig said Martinborough’s heritage was unique and should be preserved. She said the town hall’s acoustics could not be beaten. Should the project be halted again, there was a real threat that the centre would not be built with the looming council amalgamation.

 

Paora Ammunson agreed the contingency should be raised. He said not so long ago Wairarapa was an unfashionable place to live and it was a blessing to be living in a flourishing region. He said the region needed investment, and the Waihinga Centre would attract more investment opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

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