Building proposal may signal new era in Northland
February 27 2008
Building proposal may signal new era in Northland local government
A new era in local government in Northland may have been signalled with Northland Regional Council and Whangarei District Council announcing a proposal to look at a one-stop-shop local government centre for Whangarei.
Under an initial concept plan, the Regional Council would redirect about $10 million from its existing commercial investment portfolio to build a multi-storey building beside its Water Street headquarters and lease it at commercial rates to the district council. The land involved is currently occupied by some Regional Council offices and two food outlets.
As it would be developed using existing Regional Council funds, there would be no added cost to ratepayers.
If the proposal is ultimately agreed to by both councils, this would bring all district council staff under one roof, with an airbridge linking the new building and Forum North.
Regional council chairman Mark Farnsworth and Whangarei mayor Stan Semenoff say the proposal is an exciting opportunity to develop a local government centre for the many people who deal with both councils.
"We propose a joint customer service area where clients can be directed to the staff who can assist them,” Mr Farnsworth said.
"There are a number of services where the councils can work more closely together for the benefit of clients, particularly in planning and consents.
"The two councils working together can mean cost-effective services, reduced bureaucracy and better community outcomes," he said.
Mr Farnsworth and Mr Semenoff say the approximately 5000 square metre building would be designed along environmentally sustainable principles in the use of electricity, water, solar heating and natural shading and cooling. It would also be a sound, long-term commercial investment for the region’s ratepayers.
The building would be future-proofed by including extra space which could be sub-leased, possibly to engineering or planning firms which often work closely with both councils, until the space was required by council staff. Sub-leasing to such firms would mean extra efficiency.
Mr Semenoff said a one-stop local government building was a concept ratepayers should embrace enthusiastically.
"The savings in staff time and in energy use in purpose-built offices would be significant. It is hugely inefficient to have our district council staff shuttling between buildings.
"But most important of all, the sharing of resources between the two councils would be of huge benefit to the region and the district.
"People with dealings of any kind with either council would be able to come to one place to find the staff they need. It’s another positive step forward as we look to create a district which is attractive to developers as a good place to do business," Mr Semenoff said.
He said the district council had leases on office space in Walton Plaza and Civic Arcade expiring in 2010, and if the new building was completed before then, it might be possible to sub-lease that space.
Both councils have asked staff to begin negotiations on the new centre, and to engage consultants to progress the proposal. If the proposal stacks up, construction could begin by year’s end with the new building in use in 2009.