The cost of fitting out Waikato Regional Council's shiny new office in Hamilton's CBD has gone over budget due to extra costs such as shelling out for new office furniture and beautifying the "ugly" chamber.
But the council has been quick to reassure ratepayers the additional $50,655 overspend bringing the total fit-out cost to $8,875,658 comes at no extra cost to them and will be covered by money in existing council budgets.
The regional council is pouring the majority of proceeds from selling its two Hamilton East buildings for a total of $12.2 million into the fit-out as it gets ready to move into the new building in March next year.
The move was firstly held up due to delays in the building design by the building's owners and then Covid-19 restrictions holding up construction.
WRC chief executive Vaughan Payne - who will have left his role before the council moves into the new premises next year - has defended spending $8.875m on fitting out a building it doesn't own.
The advantages of being a tenant was that it had the flexibility to move should the building no longer be fit for purpose and any maintenance costs would be footed by the landlord, he said.
The council has already committed to a 15-year lease and has three further rights of renewal at its discretion.
Payne said the increase in the furniture, fixtures and equipment budget by $778,370 included replacing all its office chairs to ergonomic ones that could be easily adjusted to fit the new "agile working environment" was a health and safety issue and necessary.
The council has also shelled out $510,508 more on project management and design fees bringing the total spent to $1,275,508. Reasons for the additional costs included additional architect work, costs of developing the AV solution and scope fine tuning for consultants.
Elected members also requested changes, at a design and building cost of $65,000, to the council chamber including lifting the height of the ceiling, a different layout and a change in flooring to "ensure the meeting room is fit for purpose", Payne said.
However in contrast the cost of building works and buildings services has dropped by about $700,000 largely due to the IT services being moved to its own budget line. Other savings were made due to the developer making a contribution to the fit-out.
Waikato Regional Council chairman Russ Rimmington said elected members had been keeping a close eye on how the project was going and were comfortable with the spend.
"I don't know how the hell with these Covid-19 times we've honestly kept anywhere near the budget with a new build with the whole of New Zealand being screwed down so tight."
He said the council's old office chairs were 25 years old and at the end of their life, while the proposed council chamber needed changing to stop it looking like a badminton hall.
"It was ugly, it was plain, it was horrible. It had no style, it had nothing."
Rimmington said it made sense for the council to only lease the building in case changes were made to the local government structure.
Waikato Regional Council would not disclose the annual rent because it was commercially sensitive by the new landlord MM Group 4 Limited Partnership who purchased the building from the developer last year. However in its annual plan $2.1m has been allocated to cover the total lease and operating costs of the building.
Revised budget for new building fit-out
Project management and design fees - $1,275,508
Building works hard fit-out - $3,106,263
Building works building services - $530,865
Audio visual - $772,023
Signage - $75,000
Furniture, fixtures & equipment - $2,012,370
Environmentally sustainable design - $166,000
IT - $542,347
Other capital items - $137,655
Contingencies - $289,669
Total - $8,875,658
• Waikato Regional theatre project in Hamilton CBD now 'live'
• Waikato Regional Council on hunt for office premises
• Hamilton's tallest building and two Auckland properties
• Waikato Regional Council eyes Tauranga passenger train and new tunnel