Town Hall talk an 'attack on democracy'

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 12:50 17/02/2014
Wellington Town Hall
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ
COSTLY: Strengthening the Wellington Town hall is now likely to cost $60m.

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Wellington City Council's chief executive has been accused of "an attack on Wellington's democracy" over suggestions the Town Hall might not be worth the cost of strengthening it.

Councillor Paul Eagle said Kevin 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, 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.

Eagle said Lavery was trying to free money for new projects.

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

"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 the chief executive's sights.

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

Lavery 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," he said.

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

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council was clear that 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," she said.

"Kevin is very clear that his role is to deliver our agenda."

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- The Dominion Post

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