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Another Debacle - This Time, The 'Sport's Arena' 

The following is the sequence of an email exchange between myself and the Communications Manager at the Council - Laurna White, and her off-sider Michael Dobie. 

I am grateful for the candour displayed by the Council in making this information available - I imagine that it must have been authorised by the CEO, if not the Mayor, and that is in direct contrast to some experiences with the previous regime.

I have seriously considered Laurna's oblique request that I consider keeping the matter 'confidential' on the basis that "sensitive commercial negotiations " were under way, but on the basis that this is a public institution, and that considerable time has apparently already elapsed between the time that the 'over-run' crystallized, I do not believe that it is in anyone's best interests to keep it under wraps any longer. I have therefore concluded that the exchange should be published in full. 

From: bill barclay <

Date: 22/03/2017 2:06 pm (GMT+12:00) 
To: Laurna White <
Subject: OIR
I have received very disturbing, if unsubstantiated reports from two sources of a major cost overrun on the Zoom Zone Dry-Court, and would be grateful if you could make the following enquiries on my behalf::
a)      Has there been a cost over-run in regard to the construction of the Zoom Zone Dry-court?
b)      If so, for what reason? And
c)       By how much?
d)      On what date did the over-run materialise?
e)      Was the over-run the result of conditions discovered since the commencement of the work? And if so
f)       What were those conditions?
g)      If this is the case, and the over-run has occurred,  is it intended to report same to the Council meeting on 4 April?
Should these reports have some substance, I will understand if staff may wish to  have the opportunity to report the matter to Council before releasing details, but it would assist greatly if you could confirm or deny the basic facts surrounding the existence of an over-run, and the likely amount involved.
Many thanks, as usual.

From: Michael Dobie []
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2017 1:30 PM
To: Bill Barclay
Subject: FW: OIR
Hi Bill,
Laurna's asked me to work with the project manager and the Thames area manager to provide the information you've asked for.
I'm hoping we'll have something for you early next week.
Best regards,
Michael Dobie 

Sent: Thursday, 23 March 2017 2:40 p.m.
To: Michael Dobie
Subject: RE: OIR
Thanks Michael. I will certainly hold fire until then!

From: Laurna White [] 
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 2:39 PM
To: Bill Barclay
Subject: Indoor Sports Project

Good afternoon Bill,

Following up on your inquiry I can confirm that there has been a variation to budget for the Indoor Thames Project, which the Project Manager and the Chief Financial Officer will be bringing a paper to the Thames Community Board and Council in May, which will outline the updated financial forecasts, along with a request for additional funding for the project.

 At this stage I cannot provide you with any further information on the updated forecast cost of the project as we are in currently in discussion with contractors and suppliers on updating this information - based on their work completed to date, and proposed work yet to be performed - which means we don't have final, definitive figures at this stage.


The figures presented to the Thames Community Board last week at a workshop were a "ball-park," estimation, with the understanding that a final forecast would be weeks away.

The Board was asked to keep the following discussion confidential, as Council staff are still in sensitive commercial negotiations with contractors and finalising a number of proposals and their associated cost implications, The workshop was to provide the Board with some financial context against which the Board was reviewing its Annual Plan expenditure for 2017/18.

Best regards,


Readers may draw their own conclusions regarding the manner which the business surrounding this whole project has been conducted - as readers will be aware, I have drawn attention on several occasions to the amateurish manner in which the actual contract was put in place by the previous Council. 

It is of immense concern that having committed $5m or thereabouts to this major project on which there was only limited rate-payer support, there is now the suggestion of substantial additional cost under negotiation, or alternatively attempts being made to get this contractor off the project. 

It is my understanding that the cause of the problem may lie with the discovery of unacceptably high arsenic levels, particularly under the carpark after construction commenced. If that is the case, then it can only indicate that inadequate soil testing was undertaken prior to commencement, or that it was only undertaken under the actual building site. If this is the case, then it amounts to total negligence on the part of the staff responsible, and/or the consultants employed to undertake the preliminary work.

I say this because it was common knowledge in this town that there were extensive underground mine workings at that carpark site. Council was informed of same, and it was ruled out for that reason in 2008/9 when possible sites for re-building the town swimming pool were under consideration. The massive work that was undertaken on the carparrk early this year - far beyond anything that was obvious in the contract, may now be explained, but hardly excused.   

The whole rationale for, and the manner in which this construction has been undertaken, and funded, is worthy of a full investigation by the new Mayor and Council. This is of such importance that it may require the employment of a someone highly qualified in this field to review the entire process to date.

In the meantime, expect a substantial impost on rates as a result of this 'blow-out,' and even the possibility of litigation. The record of this contractor should become part of any such review, but the likely failure to undetake appropriate soil testing is of far greater concern, and cover-ups of responsibility simply unacceptable.




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