A councillor says the NZ International Convention Centre fire and London's Grenfell tragedy reinforced the need to spend an extra $14 million on the upgrade of the Aotea Centre.
Desley Simpson, Finance and Performance Committee chairperson and Orakei representative, said removing aluminium composite cladding on the venue's exterior was an even wiser decision, given the two fires.
The total refurbishment of the building will come to $66.8m.
"What is the price of human safety, especially in light of Grenfell and NZICC fires? I'm looking forward to seeing the refurbished centre next week. My understanding is that the cost rise for Aotea was to meet the revised cladding system," she said of a $14m increase from the original $52.8m budget.
The Aotea Centre is a flagship venue for Auckland, seating more than 2000 people across three levels. Its ASB Theatre is to be renamed the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre.
Paul Brewer, Regional Facilities Auckland's chief operating officer, said safety was paramount and is also delighted with the changes.
"All the works associated with refurbishing the public foyers and conventions spaces are completed, with the exception of some minor finishing works," Brewer said.
All external works were put on hold earlier this year to allow for a re-design of the planned cladding system and roofing upgrade, he said.
"This followed a wholesale review of building cladding systems and fire testing standards conducted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Auckland Council, following the Grenfell fire tragedy in the UK. Work on re-cladding the Aotea Centre is due to recommence in December," he said.
The whole job, whose main contractor is NZ Strong, is scheduled to be finished by next October, he said.
Spending the extra $14m was necessary, he said.
"The need to re-design the cladding system involved in the external renovations caused significant extra costs associated with additional design, engineering and consenting work. Additional costs also reflect those resulting from redundant works, and construction delays - works will have been delayed by a year - including providing for an extended period of temporary weather protection for the building," Brewer said.
The council-controlled organisation forecast work to be done so the public could be let in by March this year and Brewer said that had been achieved.
"Regional Facilities Auckland advised an increase in capital cost of $14m to refurbish the Aotea Centre, which was budged at $52.8m. The circumstances surrounding the cost of the refurbishment warrants a review," said the agenda for the council's Finance and Performance Committee meeting of May 22.
Brewer said the end result was justified.
"This is the first major refurbishment in the centre's 30 years," he said.
Due to the builders having to replace cladding partway through the project after new regulations were brought in, the job cost more and took longer than originally expected.
"The work has two components: refurbishment of interior public areas, including the centre's conventions facilities and major external renovations to address long-standing weather-tightness issues," Brewer said.
The big job to upgrade the multi-purpose centre comes at a time when the city's convention centre space is at a premium.
• SkyCity Entertainment Group has leased all its convention space in its Albert St/Federal St premises to Weta Workshop and the All Blacks Experience from early next year. The two new tourist attractions aim to bring more visitors to its facilities. Leases were struck before the fire at the convention centre.
• Emirates Team New Zealand has taken over all the waterfront Viaduct Events Centre for a term of six years, locking that space out of the market when it was previously hired by many different organisations, from Fashion Week to the NZ Institute of Architects for its conference to the council for its tripartite summit with Guangzhou and Los Angeles;
• The NZ International Convention Centre was due to be finished later next year but was damaged by the fire which started on October 22, raising doubts about when that might become available, but SkyCity says it won't be able to stage conferences there in 2021.
This week, scaffold covered the seaward face of the Aotea Centre as well as the Aotea Square side of the building. Cones, worker equipment and offices and interior works are still underway.
Regional Facilities also owns Aotea Square, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auckland Town Hall, Auckland Zoo, Bruce Mason Centre, The Civic, Mt Smart Stadium, New Zealand Maritime Museum, North Harbour Stadium, Queens Wharf and Western Springs Stadium.
A new entrance and foyers, new glass ticketing office adjacent to existing BOX Café and Bar had been built. New bars and exhibition spaces were created on different levels, with updated lighting, floor and wall treatments.