A legal challenge has been launched to block the Napier City Council plans to build a new swimming pool and gymnasium complex on the western fringes of the city at a cost of more than $44 million.
The challenge was launched on Wednesday with the filing of papers in the High Court applying for an injunction to suspend the tendering process begun by the council after the narrowest of decisions last month gave the go-ahead for the project on a block of land cornered by Prebensen and Tamatea Drives.
The decision, carried 7-6 with the casting vote of acting mayor Faye White on top of her own vote, was made in the face of opposition including a 7000-strong petition and public support for upgrading of the central Onekawa Aquatic Centre.
Filing for the injunction is newly registered The Friends of Onekawa Centre Society, which, through a Spark Foundation Givealittle page, is now seeking donations to cover what could be as much as $50,000 in legal and court fees.
A public meeting to "officially" launch the Givealittle page and seek support for it and the cause will be held next Tuesday at the St Patrick's School Hall in Riverbend Rd, Onekawa, starting at 7.30pm.
By late today the fund had already grown to over $6700.
Society chairman Graham Sutherland was quick to point out that "when we win" the trust will apply for costs and, if successful, the proceeds will be used for learn-to-swim programmes.
Sutherland and fellow trust members John Wise, Barry Suckling, Brian Gare and David Kamper were all but unknown to each other until being drawn together by their individual opposition to the project, the most costly council project in Napier's history.
The society fears it will add a significant rates increase on top of the 6.4 per cent already flagged for 2019-20.
It said: "The reason we have lodged this action in the High Court is that the NCC in approving the Prebensen Drive complex as part of their long-term plan went against overwhelming public consensus to develop the existing Onekawa Aquatic Centre.
"We feel the Council Prebensen Drive decision was based on flawed information and a lack of due process in consulting the public, which did not meet the council's own Significance and Engagement Policy."
The society says the public of Napier have for years given the council a clear indication that any new aquatic centre should be an extension at the existing Onekawa Park.
"The NCC have chosen to ignore this advice and proceeded on their own agenda to demolish the Onekawa complex and site the new Aquatic centre on the Prebensen Drive site."
It says there was no alternative but to take the action against the council which would have to spend more ratepayer money defending it actions.
"We find their attitude reprehensible," the society says.
Council CEO Wayne Jack confirmed the council received the papers late on Wednesday night.
The council is receiving advice, but Jack said: "Council will be vigorously defending this application and will make further comment when we have had a chance to consider the Statement of Claim that has been lodged."