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Focus On A Vision

17 May 2002

Calls for detailed costings of major projects proposed in Hutt City's Draft Annual Plan are misplaced given that there is a clear process to go through before the Annual Plan is finalised on 19-20 June, said Chief Executive Rik Hart.

"It is also desirable to determine the level of public support for any proposals before proceeding with detailed costings and analysis.

"This city is at a crossroads in its development. We have a flat or declining population, declining GDP growth and declining employment," said Rik Hart.

"The key question Council has asked people to consider is 'what sort of city do you want to live in? People need to focus on a future vision for the city."

"To help them answer that question, Council put forward a number of major projects that could be undertaken over the next ten years and asked people to prioritise them," said Rik Hart.

"It is stated very clearly in the Draft Annual Plan, and again in the pamphlet distributed to all residents, that "costs are estimates only - if the projects go ahead more work will be done and further information provided to ratepayers"."

If there is community buy-in for all or some of these major projects, then the next step would be to undertake more detailed work.

With this in mind, studies for some of the major projects are included in the Draft Annual Plan. They include: * $170,000 for the East-West valley connector (over two years) * $80,000 for an indoor stadium * $26,000 for the Dowse Art Museum design brief * $40,00 for 'further work on the feasibility study which involves the Central Library, Dowse and Settlers Museums.' (p93 of DAP)

"These studies will contain detailed costings and analysis of the major projects, but it doesn't make sense to start spending large sums of public money on detailed analysis of projects for which there may be limited public support."

"With regards to the Central Library, the Dowse and Petone Settlers, we have asked the question, 'to what extent is moving these services around feasible?' And we have looked at this both from a practical point of view and a very basic cost point of view."

"The process we are following has been set by Council.

"If, for example, there was public support for improving the central library service, the next step would be to complete a business case examining the options and the implications for capital expenditure and other additional costs. There would then be further public consultation before any decision was made."

"The only new expenditure on the central library that Council is asking the community to consider in 2002/2003 is $40,000 for the 'funding of a feasibility study which involves the Central library, Dowse and Settlers Museums'," said Rik Hart. [line item on p 93 of the DAP, under operating projects]

Questions around the Central Library service began after a report found that it could cost $1.65 million to upgrade the existing building to acceptable health and safety standards and address other issues such as improving access. Expanding or significantly improving facilities would be additional.

"At that point it was decided by Council to defer any expenditure until further study of options, which included looking at the economic benefits that could be derived from relocating the service to the CBD.

"That study has largely been completed and will be available to councillors when they meet to consider the final Annual Plan on 19-20 June. That was always the process.

"The $40,000 in the Draft Annual Plan will allow further that study to be finalised, and it is expected that that will include the option of improving the old building," said Rik Hart.

"The bottom line is, and I am sure the community will agree, that it is unfair to ask staff to continue working in, and customers to continue using, a building that does not meet health and safety standards."

The experience of Kapiti District Council was that it took 12 months from the initial concept being floated to completing the detailed analysis.

"No-one is being asked to support spending $3.1 million on the Central Library next year. If Council agreed to the proposal, expenditure would fall within the parameters of the Long Term Financial Strategy and is currently spread over two years beginning in the 2003/2004 financial year."

ENDS


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