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Anger over pool site indecision

BY LIZ WILLIS
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2009
Reno Wijnstok

ANGER: Stadium chairman Reno Wijnstok has sent a letter to Local Government Minister Rodney Hide complaining about the council’s bid to revisit the Albany pool issue.

Parfitt
JULIA PARFITT
Darby
CHRIS DARBY

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Irrational decisions by Shore councillors about a new pool for Albany show the need for a supercity, says North Harbour Stadium Trust chairman Reno Wijnstok.

"If ever there was an advertisement for why a supercity is required it’s to take the decision-making away from people like this," Mr Wijnstok says.

The trust chairman’s comments follow the latest flip-flop by Shore councillors on the location of the proposed pool, which is intended to serve the fast-growing northern region.

In December councillors again voted for the stadium, over Massey University, as the preferred site.

This followed a report by an expert evaluation panel, overseen by the government’s Audit Office, backing the stadium option.

But on September 23 the council voted to seek legal advice about whether it can change its mind about the best site.

Mr Wijnstok is sending Local Government Minister Rodney Hide a copy of the angry letter he sent to mayor Andrew Williams and councillors who supported the latest change of heart.

"I ask you, as you enter your last year as a North Shore city councillor, to reflect upon your role in this debacle," says the letter.

Mr Wijnstok’s letter says the council is wasting ratepayers money and in the business world it "would be labelled irresponsible".

He criticises their decision to ask for "a legal opinion of a legal opinion they already have" and the "debacle of political interventions to date".

Experts back the stadium site but "there are eight councillors who seem to know better", he told the North Shore Times.

The eight councillors referred to are members of Mr Williams’ so-called A-team.

Mr Wijnstok says 11 experts and consultants and two detailed evaluation processes picked the stadium as the best site.

But deputy mayor Julia Parfitt says there are
new factors to consider.

For example the Millennium Institute in Mairangi Bay proposes building an 50-metre pool in partnership with council for public use and international competitions, she says. The institute also has an existing 50 metre pool and toddler’s pool.

There could be substantial savings for ratepayers at sites with existing facilities and it’s important to take more time to look at other options, says Mrs Parfitt.

Reducing the $1.25 million proposed rates’ contribution to annual running costs may be among savings, she says.

Frustration that the council has "squandered" public money relitigating the location is prompting councillor Chris Darby to write to Mr Hide.

Mr Darby also plans to raise concerns that councillor Callum Blair has a conflict of interest because of his business links.

"So far reinvestigations have squandered away between $900,000 and $1.2m," he says.

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The successful motion at the September council meeting was put before councillors by Mr Blair.

"He reluctantly admitted to last week’s meeting that he has business interests at the Massey campus, where he holds the security contract, and the stadium precinct, where he owns a gym," says Mr Darby.

Mr Blair doesn’t believe he has a conflict of interest. He says any site chosen would be in competition with his Albany gym.

During debate at September’s council meeting some councillors argued new proposals from the Millennium Insitute and Massey could result in a cheaper, larger pool.

Mr Williams said a 50-metre pool would be needed if the North Shore was to host Commonwealth Games events.

Timeline: Albany pool site

- March 2006: North Shore City Council appoints Australian consultants Stratcorp to assess and recommend the best site: $150,000

- April 2006: Council appoints Australian architects Peddle Thorp: $30,000

- December 2006: Stratcorp recommends North Harbour Stadium as preferred site

- July 2007: Council resolves to develop the pool as stadium site

- October 2007: Council elections see Andrew Williams replace George Wood as mayor

- December 2007: PWC appointed to peer review Stratcorp work: $30,000

- February 2008: Council appoints consultants SGL and Beca to start again and asks Audit NZ for overview: $175,000

- March 2008: Council appoints expert consultants Page Kirkland, Flow, Isthmus and Erica Law to project and establish evaluation panel: $50,000

- April 2008: Massey University and North Harbour Stadium briefed re new ‘bid’ process

- October 2008: Massey and stadium submit proposals to evaluation panel: $50,000

- November 2008: Evaluation panel and consultants  again recommend stadium as preferred site: $10,000

- December 2008: The council seeks opinion from legal firm Simpson Grierson and Audit Office: Do we have to abide by our process. They are told yes. $10,000

- June 2009: The council includes $10 million plus inflation – $12.8m – in city plan budget for 2013, but is silent on site

- September 2009: The council votes to seek a further opinion from Simpson Grierson asking if it has to abide by the site decision already made: $10,000

- Total: $515,000

- Information and figures are taken from a letter sent by Reno Wijnstok, chairman of North Shore Domain and North Harbour Stadium Trust to councillors.

- North Shore Times

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