Mercury Bay Sports Complex
Friday, September 28, 2012 at 10:21AM
Bill Barclay

This saga proceeds apace.

The latest episode relates to a $1m shortfall that has been revealed over the last few days that reportedly brought about a major panic within the Castle. It apparently occurred because of the failure to bring to account the original Optus charges for undertaking the investigations, and business case. What a $12.5m project is now a $13.5 project. It fair makes the eyes water, but it will provide a glorious facility, on a par with the magnificent wastewater scheme, that fulfils the exalted ambitions of the  Whitianga community.

There are other shortfalls in the accounting process that I will not go into here. Suffice to say that the whole project remains a total white elephant that will come back to bite this Council when they come to realise the costs of upkeep. It has been a total shemozzle from day one with Hopper interests exercising far too great an influence over both the decision making and the scope of the project. In the main it appeared to me that it was entirely involved with keeping the Hopper machinery working, and employee's occupied. Their wonderful (secret!) deal over reserve contributions with Mayor Lux that virtually guaranteed them a cost-plus contract on the complex development was a document to behold - and an object lesson on how councils should not do business.

Wide eyed Cr McLean who was the principal booster for the project, remained surprisingly silent during the course of the discussion on Wednesday, and so he should - having been responsible for the gross waste of probably an equivalent amount in pushing for the Moeawai Road site at the outset. They all agree that it is a magnificent asset to the town, but no-one has been able to explain just who is going to use all the facilities that are being provided - four footy grounds and barely one team, as an example. Nor has anyone explained exactly how stage two of the project is to be funded - this is all the 'nice to have' facilities, including grandstands etc.

Even Mayor Leach expressed extreme scepticism in regard to the project, and proceeded to list sign-offs that would be required on all significant projects in the future - including just about everyone down to the cleaner. How that improves responsibility escapes me. Board Chair Allison Henry was clearly thrown in the deep end on this one, and expressed enormous gratitude to all concerned for having a found a way out of the dilemma - even she must be wondering how on earth they got themselves into this one.

In the meantime, the $12.5 (now to be $13.5m) project has just about destroyed the reserves that resulted from past development in the town, and Whitianga is back just about where every other Board is in regard to being able to access funds for 'pet' projects. And CFO Steve Baker confirmed to Cr French that there will be a financial impact on the rest of the District through the UAGC because of the additional borrowing that will be required. Oh dear, how we get sucked in!




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