Drive 7 miles North-East of Chichester, in the UK, turn right into The Drive, and you will have arrived at the state of the art manufacturing plant of Rolls-Royce and its Global Centre of Excellence, in Goodwood.
Upon arrival you can sit down with the accommodating Rolls-Royce staff and design your own personally configured, bespoke, 24-carat-gold-coated 6.75 litre Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII. Pure luxury on wheels.
How much will that set you back? Well... if you have to ask you can't afford it. But you better be very wealthy! Previous newspaper reports have suggested as much as US$8 million though.
We will probably never see one of these beasts roaming the streets of Whanganui but some people are now starting to question if the earthquake strengthening and extension to the Sarjeant Art Gallery will eventually become an even bigger monument to the excessive wealth of Whanganuians.
Estimated to cost $34.9m in 2016, one can only expect it to be significantly higher today, once completed. Our District Council recently awarded a $20m contract for the new extension, but we still don't know how much earthquake strengthening and refurbishing the original Sarjeant Art Gallery is going to cost. That is because everything is "behind closed doors" and discussed "in confidence".
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To date, Whanganui ratepayers have already given a $5m guarantee to unlock government funds for the project, with the hope that fundraising will eventually cover this amount and any other shortfall. The Sarjeant fundraising committee under the direction of local lass and fundraising extraordinaire, Nicola Williams, has done a marvellous job so far, and even if they never raise one more cent, they certainly need to be applauded for their efforts to date.
So the burning question the public now want to know is... how much is the shortfall going to be? Exactly how much will ratepayers be exposed to guaranteeing, should enough funds not be raised?
Could this whole exercise add another $10m, $20m or $30m to Council debt? Is it wise to even be building the new extension before knowing the cost of repairing the old structure—are ratepayers and councillors being backed into a corner from where they have no other option but to push on with an "unexpected" debt should it eventuate?
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Or perhaps it is time to dwell on the advice of former Prime Minister, David Lange, when he announced in 1988 that it was time to "pause for a cup of tea" and reassess the excessive speed in which his government, and Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas, was changing the face of New Zealand?
After all, we were initially told by our Council that the Whanganui community could not afford to carry the burden of redeveloping the Sarjeant Art Gallery, so close after the new $38.8m Wastewater Treatment Plant, and that the money would have to be raised from outside the community.
Indeed, lots of question that deserve lots of answers, but in all likelihood, the horse has already bolted from the stable and an unwitting public may eventually be presented with a fait accompli of more unwanted debt. It would be nice though, if our Council were more transparent and upfront on issues like this.
•Steve Baron is a Whanganui-based political commentator, author and Founder of Better Democracy NZ. He holds a degree in Economics & Honours degree in Political Science.