As half of Napier's 12 councillors, we have always embraced collective responsibility by supporting majority decisions, provided they are based on transparent, timely, complete and correct information.
We believe the decision to demolish the Onekawa Aquatic Centre and undertake the $41.3 million Prebensen Drive project, modelled on the Christchurch QE11 facility, was procedurally flawed and skewed from its inception.
Following the 2015 Aquatic Strategy, business cases were prepared for four options, all at Onekawa Park. Two of these were upgrades of the 20-year-old Ivan Wilson Centre and two were new builds containing 25m and 50m pools respectively.
For the 2017 public consultation document, the basic upgrade was shelved along with a more ambitious full $20.2m upgrade of the Ivan Wilson Centre including a new heated 25m x 25m pool, a 12.5m x 8m learn-to-swim pool, and a cafe and gym.
Public submissions favoured the 50m pool but council rejected this as the estimate of $38m had risen to $50m and a 50m pool had been signalled for the regional sports park.
Later in 2017, council staff visited the uncompleted 25m QE11 facility and presented this concept to council. No opportunity was offered to elected members to visit the facility until the middle of 2018, after they had made their decision.
The $41.3m Prebensen Drive proposal was included in the 2018 Long Term Plan (LTP) consultation document as option 1 with the $20.2m refurbished Ivan Wilson Centre and fit for present and future community purpose new build combination as option 2.
Public submissions were 51% support for option 1. The council voted for this 5-8 on the clear understanding from its governance advisory that the special council meeting to adopt the plan would provide a double debating opportunity.
Before the special meeting, a legal option was presented to council (now divided 6-7 in favour) that they could not reject the QE11 proposal unless they rejected then re-consulted on the entire LTP.
Rather than delay all other LTP projects, the council adopted the LTP after being assured the QE11 model could be stopped at any gateway and alternatives advanced for public consultation.
The 2018 LTP consultation document stated that a $34m loan was required for option 1 and a $13.2m loan for option 2; $67 and $51 annual rate increases were disclosed for each option. The carry-over of the current $56 Onekawa facilities annual rates charge to both options was not.
Undisclosed in the LTP document and unknown by council until months after option 1 was adopted was that it had a 30-year loan term and option 2 a 15-year term. If trans-generational 30-year loans were raised for each option, ratepayers would have a $39 annual increase for option 2 or far less if the value of the Prebensen Drive site was committed to Onekawa.
We all believe that dragging the heart out of Onekawa by relocating the aquatic facilities is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons:
(1) NZ recreational facility standards state that new aquatic facilities are best located where they form part of a community hub.
Onekawa Park contains tennis/netball courts, Omni gym and Plunket. The shopping centre opposite benefits from 200,000 pool visits each year. 12,000 people walk to the pools annually, five schools are within safe walking distance. St Patrick's School principal has implored the council to retain the Onekawa aquatic facility.
(2) The earlier four Onekawa options were subjected to an external business case. This was not conducted for the Prebensen Drive option, neither was a socio-economic Impact report.
(3) The Onekawa Park Site is closer to three of our city's four wards containing its most deprived residential areas. The closest adjoining suburbs contain our city's most affordable housing keenly sought after by younger families.
(4) The Onekawa site has ample sealed parking and roading in excellent condition surrounded by established parkland. It once contained and was recently proposed for a 50m pool so it has ample room for future expansion.
The Ivan Wilson facility was independently assessed as having $7m of residual assets, 60% in good to very good condition, 28% in average to good condition and 12% in poor to average condition.
(5) Contamination risk through soil exposure can be remedied and mitigated and is budgeted at $800,000.
This risk is no more than when the 1998 Ivan Wilson in ground concrete facility was constructed and applies to surrounding residential properties.
The QE11 project manager has advised that most new public pools are stainless steel and sit entirely above ground level and was unequivocal in stating that " very little excavation is needed".
He confirmed that the rest of the simple concrete block/truss roof structure covers the pools and surrounds built on a concrete pad at 1.5m above ground level.
(6) $21m more is required for option 1 than option 2 forfeiting millions more by losing the potential value of the 7ha Prebensen Drive.
The council needs to deliver what is necessary and affordable before taking on tens of millions of dollars of debt to pursue the most expensive discretionary project it has ever undertaken.
No doubt people would enjoy the water play area incorporated into the QE11 design
but Napier needs to fund a water network upgrade, a library, a civic building and make urgent improvements to its social housing.
With more than 7000 petitioners wanting our city's redeveloped aquatic facilities to remain at Onekawa and not a single speaker in favour of the Prebensen Drive proposal at the packed three-hour Q&A meeting held on December 4, it is time for a council rethink.
* Written by Napier city councillors Tony Jeffery, Kirsten Wise, Larry Dallimore, Maxine Boag, Api Tapine and Richard McGrath.