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Council's unpleasant wedding gift

JENNY LING
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014
Libby Masters and Mike Clews
HIRE RATE: Libby Masters and Mike Clews first inquired about booking Ferndale House for their vintage-style wedding last December.
Melissa Hill
Jenny Ling
STRESSFUL WAIT: Melissa Hill has been trying to book the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall since January.

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Two brides-to-be have been left "frustrated and stressed" after six months trying to secure wedding venues with Auckland Council.

Libby Masters and Melissa Hill waited half a year to have their bookings at Ferndale House and the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall confirmed.

Instead they were told the prices had escalated by hundreds of dollars.

The Albert-Eden Local Board stepped in after the Central Leader started asking questions, apologised and promised the couples - and anyone else who booked venues before the July 1 changes come into effect - to honour the original rates.

Melissa Hill asked about booking Mt Albert War Memorial Hall in January and was given an initial price of $30.80 an hour at off-peak times and $61.40 at peak times.

The total cost of $1198 would have included 27 hours for her wedding and reception in March 2015, plus time to set things up the night before and clean up the day after.

Hill and her fiance Oliver Young, both 40, say the venue is perfect for their big day which will host 200 guests.

But monthly phone calls to the council for final confirmation failed to get results.

"They said that I couldn't be confirmed until the next financial year," Hill says.

Finally, on June 10, she received an email with new prices - $55.20 for off-peak times and $69.00 at peak times, pushing the cost up by $644 to $1842.

"An 80 per cent increase is just ridiculous," she says.

"All I wanted was some sort of confirmation. I just want them to honour the pricing they quoted."

Libby Masters, 30, and her fiance Mike Clews, 29, have a similar story. They want to marry at Ferndale House in Mt Albert in November.

The Avondale residents were told the hourly rates would be $30.80 off-peak and $61.40 peak after their inquiry last December.

That jumped to $47.20 off-peak while the peak rate dropped to $59.

But now the whole weekend is deemed to be a peak time, increasing their total from $1590 to $2136 - an increase of $546.

"It's really stressful," Masters says.

"Mike and I are trying to keep within a really tight budget."

Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes says he received an email from council community facilities manager Kevin Marriott on June 19 saying the original fees will apply to anyone who made bookings before July 1.

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"Now it's been brought to our attention we're dealing with this very quickly, in a matter of days. We would not have wanted this to happen as a process. There should not have been a delay in the bookings."

A council spokeswoman says the change was made under the new Hire Fee Framework for Community Facilities.

Weddings now fall under the same category as commercial use and will be charged standard fees, she says.

"Auckland Council views weddings as private use as opposed to fulfilling a wider community benefit."

MESSY START TO MARRIAGE

It's not the first time the council has let down couples on their big day.

Earlier this year a newlywed couple warned others to think twice before getting married at Auckland Council properties.

Christina Olsen found Papakura's Elizabeth Campbell Centre ''absolutely filthy'' the night before her wedding.

A toilet was blocked, the fridge held rotten food, a sanitary pad sat in a bucket and there was a stench of urine in the men's toilet.

The Papakura woman and her fiance collected half a bag of rubbish, including two condoms from the overgrown garden, as calls to the council for an emergency clean-up went unanswered.

- Central Leader

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