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Lessons Learned In ‘comedy Of Errors’ Toilet Project

Lessons have been learned through the beleaguered construction of a new $928,000 toilet block for Gisborne’s inner harbour, district council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann says.

“No one wants to kind of say, ‘Well, yeah, this is our issue’ . . . but ultimately I’m accountable because I’m the chief executive,” Ms Thatcher Swann told yesterday’s council meeting.

The new loos were meant to cost $598,000 and take just three months to build when construction began in September 2018.

But they took a year to finish after a series of delays from the day site excavations began, uncovering old rail tracks, contaminated soil and fumes.

Councillor Kerry Worsnop said the report into the toilets’ construction “reads a little bit like a comedy of errors”.

“Someone somewhere should have had enough ownership of this project that they knew every detail all the way through,” Cr Worsnop said. “If that had been the case, I doubt we would have ended up with lots of revisits and fix-ups.”

Ms Thatcher Swann said the project failed “from a number of hands involved”.

It needed an experienced person to oversee it right from the start.

“We know that now.”

The council also now knew any work in the inner harbour would involve contaminated soil, Ms Thatcher Swann said.

Community lifelines director Dave Wilson said work to determine what was in the ground before construction projects started was invaluable, and the council had learned that lesson.

He pointed to the Rutene Road stormwater upgrade project as an example, saying there was a “jigsaw” of material under the road but, by determining that, the installation of a new pipe at a depth of six feet had been problem-free.

The inner harbour redevelopment had a price tag of $9.28 million, with the council contributing $3.7m and the rest of the funding coming from central government, Eastland Port and Trust Tairawhiti.

The toilet cost blow-out was absorbed into the overall budget, Mr Wilson said.

Most of the extra money – $260,000 – went towards rectifying issues with contaminated soil, while $70,000 was related to design changes, including $10,500 to make the toilet partitions a “more conservative” grey after the council decided their original colour, green, clashed.

Ongoing problems with rain getting into the new toilet block, along with vandalism and loitering, have been linked to the building’s “breezeway” design, with a gap between the top of the walls and roof.

Mr Wilson said louvre walls would be installed in the gap to deflect the rain and prevent people from climbing on to the roof.

The report into the toilet project said compensation was being sought from Auckland-based architects LandLAB for design “omissions” and work to make the building more watertight.

Mr Wilson said the council was awaiting an engineer’s report into the design issues to determine liability.

Councillor Pat Seymour struggled to understand why the project failed on so many fronts, saying a toilet block was “not the most complex piece of architecture in the world”.

But Mr Wilson said the bespoke design meant it was “not like picking something off the shelf”.

LandLAB was a reputable firm, he said.

Among its portfolio are Auckland’s light rail project and pink cycle path, Te Ara i Whiti.

© Scoop Media

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