Napier City Council's aquarium redevelopment will be reconsidered if Government does not commit at least $35 million to the project, close to half the cost of the costliest construction project ever mooted in Hawke's Bay.
The decision, also recognising the project has outgrown council capacity to "resource and lead" and seeking longer-term operational support from Government recognising the project as of national significance, was made at a full-council Sustainable Napier Committee meeting on Thursday.
It approved a high-level "Communications and Engagement" plan and the beginning of community engagement following Government endorsement.
In answer to a question at the meeting, council chief executive Wayne Jack said if Government "doesn't come on board" then the project doesn't progress. But he said the business case was unprecedented in its extent and detail.
• Napier's National Aquarium options: $77m rebuild or shut down as early as 2022
• National Aquarium says goodbye to 19-year-old penguin friend
• Premium - 'Tighter rules' force National Aquarium of NZ in Napier to euthanase its piranhas
• National Aquarium penguin of the year: Timmy's lover Draco takes title from him
Deputy mayor Annette Brosnan's resolution, partly replacing officers' recommendations and adopted by the meeting, supports the concept and the facility's ongoing "presence" in Napier, where the National Aquarium was first opened in 1976.
While accepting the concept as "amazing" and "fabulous", councillors expressed concerns about the escalating cost estimates, from under $45 million forecast when the project was first publicly mooted in August 2017 to the current pitch of $77.7 million and the possible impacts on ratepayers.
An application is to be made for major support from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund, with some concerns that delays could further balloon projected costs and also impact on the viability of a project intended to be primarily funded from central Government and "philanthropic" sources.
Mayor Kirsten Wise highlighted some of the reticence by telling committee chairman Keith Price and councillors that the community had made it "very clear" it was not interested in "vanity projects", and she was not prepared to endorse such projects when the city had not got on top of such issues as "homelessness and dirty water".
Tanya Wright said the council still had a chance to "exit" if Government did not support the project, but considering the extent to which the proposal had progressed she said she would like to get to the point where the support had been tested.
The community could not support it without the Government support, she said, but added it was a "fabulous vision".
Brosnan said the resolution did not "kill" the project if the Government did not "come up with the money", but the council would have to reconsider its future.