John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Public poll on Tauranga's civic heart project

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Former Tauranga City councillor Larry Baldock is polling city residents on election issues.
Former Tauranga City councillor Larry Baldock is polling city residents on election issues.

A private poll of 600 people by potential Tauranga mayoral candidate Larry Baldock will include testing people's knowledge of the proposed civic heart project and whether it should start with building a new library.

Polling by the Auckland-based company which began today will also canvas public opinion on the growing field of candidates vying to become mayor in order to gauge the frontrunners.

Transforming the CBD's civic heart has become one of the biggest single issues in the memory of current mayor Stuart Crosby who was standing down in order to run for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

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The project, which centres on a new $64 million civic administration building, has attracted at least 555 submissions from individuals and organisations.

Mr Baldock, who has funded the poll at a cost of several thousand dollars, said he would not announce the results of the mayoral candidate questions until after nominations closed on August 12. Otherwise it would be "counter-productive".

The civic heart questions would cover how much people really knew about the project, and if they did know, should a new library come first.

Mr Baldock favours demolishing the old civic administration building and spending $17 million to fix the more modern buildings at the Wharf St end of the block, including the current library. They would become the offices for staff so that the city could at least get a new library.

Spending $64 million on a new administration building would take the council up to its debt limit and leave civic amenities like a new library and museum languishing on the wish list.

Part of his motivation to add questions about the civic heart project was because he had concerns with the council's reliance on the submission process to gauge public opinion before it decided on major spending.

Mr Baldock said more accurate feedback was needed for a project that could grow to over $100 million. "Five hundred to 600 submissions is only 1 per cent of the city's 50,000 rateable properties."

He highlighted the millions wasted in planning for projects that were scrapped once they become election issues, including the waterfront museum and the Mount Hot Pools redevelopment.

He said it would not be difficult for the council to carry out surveys, possibly going out with rating mailouts or voting papers.

Mr Baldock intends to announce the answers to the civic heart portion of the poll at the council's hearing of submissions early next month.

Tauranga's civic options proposals
- New civic administration building for staff: $64.3 million
- New civic plaza open space: $4.3 million
- Redevelop Masonic Park into civic square: $2.5 million
- Feasibility studies for a museum, library and a performance centre: $400,000

- Bay of Plenty Times

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