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Call For AG To Investigate Marine Centre Proposal

PRESS STATEMENT

CALL FOR AUDITOR GENERAL TO INVESTIGATE COUNCIL FUNDING FOR MARINE CENTRE PROPOSAL

The Auditor General is being asked to investigate Wellington City Council support for a $12 million marine education centre planned on coastal reserve land at Te Raekaihu Point near Lyall Bay on Wellington's south coast.

The council has funded promoters of the marine centre to prepare a resource consent application and guaranteed $4.5 million to underwrite development costs for the project if it proceeds.

Opponents of the scheme lodged a submission with the Auditor General's office today. The 21-page submission is accompanied by 16 appendices which range from a largely blacked out Business Plan obtained through the Office of the Ombudsman to forms supporting the marine centre signed by primary school children.

The submission has been co-authored by Island Bay resident John Robinson and Coral Hyman from Houghton Bay.

Robinson said opponents of the proposed multi storey centre to be built at Te Raekaihu Point were becoming frustrated in their dealings with the Wellington City Council.

He claimed the City Council had failed to provide clear information and meaningful consultation with the community both within the area adjacent to Te Raekaihu Point and within greater Wellington.

"All the people of Wellington have an interest in preserving the unique environment of the south coast. The council is showing it is determined to turn a deaf ear to reasonable questions and concerns being raised by a growing number of ratepayers who wish to preserve the natural beauty of the Point.

"There are a number of private developers who would be interested in spending their own money in setting up a marine education centre in the Wellington area adjacent to the sea but away from significant environmental features. The council's actions indicate they are blinkered and intent only on supporting one very large proposal located specifically at the Point.

"Our submission to the Auditor General clearly lays out where the council has been flawed in its approach to this proposal."

This approach to the Auditor has the support of Wellington Central Grey Power. President Carrick Lewis noted their concern with the way that the council took ownership of the Embassy Theatre without consultation with the people of Wellington.

"If this pattern continues the rate burden on those on low and fixed incomes will increase at an unfair level. If the Council in its support for the Marine Education Trust is obliged to invest ratepayers money in this private/public enterprise there is a danger that without full disclosure of the proposal and an evaluation of its economic sustainability the ratepayers of Wellington could end up carrying the burden."

Main issues raised in the submission lodged with the Auditor General today include:

a.. The lack of transparency and qualitative public consultation by WCC before committing $4.5 million of rate-payers money to develop a marine centre on a priceless public asset.

b.. The use of public funding to mitigate negative public perception of the Council.

c.. Flaws in submissions purporting to represent ratepayer views about the specific proposal to be located at Te Raekaihu Point.

d.. Failure by Wellington City Council to follow due process in spending of public money.

e.. Inconsistencies in details supporting the proposal and its location at the Point.

f.. Failure by the Wellington City Council to explore the financial risk in underwriting the proposal and to lay out the risks before the ratepayers of Wellington City.

g.. Reluctance by the Wellington City Council to release key information to the public about the proposals by citing commercial interest when ratepayer funds are being placed at risk. Robinson said there was a growing level of opposition to a proposed marine centre development at the Point.

"Our research shows the process being followed is not fair to the ratepayers of Wellington and is potentially placing millions of dollars at risk while degrading the south coast environment at Te Raekaihu Point."

Groups opposing the development have launched a website http://www.savethepoint.org.nz setting out the history of the proposal and the geographical features of the point.

ENDS


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