'Perfect storm' of complications over civic precinct

NICHOLAS BOYACK
Last updated 11:50 13/11/2012
Lower Hutt Town Hall
Lower Hutt Town Hall

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A 'perfect storm' of financial, heritage, amalgamation and earthquake- risk factors was described to city councillors at a behind-closed-doors briefing last week.

Next month the council is due to decide what to do about the earthquake-risk heritage administration block and adjacent halls - or at least narrow down the options to two or three to put out for public consultation.

The council has put aside $24 million for the work, and by its own rules must carry out the strengthening work by 2018.

Complicating factors include:

The money set aside is not enough;

It may be feasible to save only the facades of the heritage administration block, and build behind;

The staff has to be accommodated while the work is done - short-term options include moving into the old Contact Energy building on VIC corner;

The heated up amalgamation debate - what sort of building will be needed if there are council mergers.

Deputy Mayor David Bassett heads a sub-committee with councillors Roger Styles and Chris Milne which has been pondering these issues.

The council also has to take into account staff safety, the need to protect heritage values and the council's and ratepayers' desire to keep debt down.

"There is a whole range of critical issues that have to be brought together," Cr Bassett said.

The sub-committee has looked at numerous options and the non-public briefing was to update councillors. No decision was made.

He is still not sure what is the best way forward.

"This is not an easy exercise."

The council will be meeting on December 11 and the sub-committee aims to present a detailed report with a firm recommendation.

Cr Bassett says the meeting on December 11 will be open to the public.

Although he aims to have a recommendation to discuss, he says there will inevitably be opposition and he expects a wide range of views.

THE OPTIONS

Councillors were presented with three options at last week's meeting - all of them costing more than the $24 million budgeted. Councillors were told it is technically very difficult to earthquake-strengthen the building and that it would be hard to justify on financial grounds. Consents will need to be lodged by 2016.

Options are:

Knock down the entire west wing and build behind the remaining facade.

Knock down the entire building and build a new facility on the site.

Knock down the building and build or rent in the central city.

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