John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

$67m project for city centre takes next step

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The council building from Willow St. Photo/file
The council building from Willow St. Photo/file

Tauranga City councillors have taken the cautious next step in a process expected to eventually transform the two-hectare civic centre into a new $67 million heart for the downtown.

Councillors today stepped back from adopting the business case as the basis on which to change the organisation's long-term financial plan to accommodate the project.

In a subtle word change meant to reassure people that the council was not stepping over the line of pre-determining the outcome of the project, it agreed by a vote of 10-1 to "receive" the business case for the package of options proposed for the civic heart.

"At this stage of the process, we should not step over the line of pre-determining the outcome," Mayor Stuart Crosby said.

He was confident that when the council went out to the community with the options, it would get feedback for and against the proposals.

The key financial instrument that needed to be changed to bed in the various proposals was the council's 2015-25 Long Term Plan.

Councillor Catherine Stewart opposed, saying there were a lot of assumptions in the business case. She looked forward to hearing the community's views. A fit-for-purpose civic administration building done in an efficient and effective manner came before any frills.

Cr Stewart said it had already cost more than $1 million for information, reports and staff time.

The business case's preferred way forward had three prongs. The first was a new civic administration building to enable the council to address its immediate office accommodation issues and to provide an efficient and effective workplace for staff and governance of the organisation.

The second was the open space around a new administration building and the third was the development of detailed business cases for a library, museum and performance venue.

A new administration building and associated open space were chosen because they were "investment ready".

None of the major elements for a new civic heart were excluded by the business case because they all contributed toward achieving the project's objectives of a more vibrant city centre, improved value for money for the community, and improved economic development.

The preferred way forward would cost $66.93 million out to 2025, or $71.62 million when adjusted for inflation.

The case for change was driven by the discovery of toxic mould in November 2014 in leaky civic centre buildings. Staff were currently housed in temporary leased accommodation in Devonport Rd.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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