Councillor unhappy with Town Hall debate

COSTLY: Strengthening the Wellington Town hall is now likely to cost $60m.
COSTLY: Strengthening the Wellington Town hall is now likely to cost $60m.

Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery has been accused of "an attack on Wellington's democracy" over suggestions the Town Hall might not be worth the amount of work needed to strengthen it.

Councillor Paul Eagle said Mr Lavery was "warming up" the public to accept the demise of the Town Hall so he could push through his "think big projects".

Before last year's vote to proceed with $43.7 million of earthquake strengthening work, Mr Lavery told councillors it was "an awful lot of money for zero return", when the city was crying out for a purpose-built convention centre. The cost of the work has now ballooned to a possible $60m.

Mr Eagle said Mr Lavery was attempting to free up money for new projects.

"It is a blatant attempt from the CEO to free up several million dollars for his 'think big' projects.

"They are warming up Wellington to say 'if you want to have a new concert venue you can't have your old town hall'. Wellington needs to decide [that], not unelected city managers"

He also warned that other council spending, such as the $500m spent annually on social and recreation activities, including parks and reserves, might also be in Mr Lavery's sight.

Mr Lavery said the comments were "surprising", and it was the mayor and councillors who made those sorts of spending decisions.

"He hasn't expressed his concerns to me, but I'm happy to sit down with him to clarify the situation."

He said he did make comments to councillors at a committee meeting, as part of his "no surprises" policy.

"The projected costs of the town hall upgrade are rising significantly - and I think it is essential that the mayor and councillors, the decision-makers, hear about this sooner rather than later.

"I have asked officers to provide a full report to the mayor and councillors on options for the town hall. They will be the ones who will make the decisions."

He said there were no plans to make cuts to the council's social and cultural services.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council was very clear that Mr Lavery "was appointed to implement our policy".

"I introduced the annual plan, the economic projects ... I am very excited that we've got somebody who has been charged to deliver them. Kevin is very clear that his role is to deliver our agenda," she said. 

"We will be making a democratic decision on the best option."


The Dominion Post