More money needed for walkway

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:25 30/05/2014

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A beautification project along the Maitai River has blown its budget by $700,000, forcing council staff to ask the council for more money or the project would be stalled.

Nelson city councillors were told the budget for the Maitai Walkway, between the Trafalgar St and QEII bridges, had blown out from a projected $2.9 million to an estimated $3.6m at a meeting yesterday.

News of the blowout - delivered by the council's infrastructure group manager Alec Louverdis - was greeted by surprise and displeasure of those sitting around the table. Staff requested an extra $587,480 for the project as part of the coming year's annual plan.

Louverdis could not explain in detail how the price tag had risen so dramatically, but said there had been design issues and soil contamination along the development, but the scope of works had not changed.

He warned the council if it did not provide the extra funding the pathway would be left as it was, unfinished and unattractive.

Mayor Rachel Reese described the situation as a "blowout" and told staff that budgets were set by the council and it expected projects to be delivered to those budget allowances.

The mayor questioned why the jump in costs had not come to the council's attention earlier through financial reports and requested a report to be provided to the council, explaining how the budget had ballooned.

She said there would be "further discussion around the project management" of the development.

Chief executive Clare Hadley said unexpected problems had been revealed in this financial year with the project since the end of March.

Councillor Gaile Noonan questioned why the council was only just finding out about the "blowout" and the request for extra money so late in the financial year.

She said she realised the pathway looked "fantastic".

But if she was building a house and the builder came back with such a large variance, she would want to know early to make adjustments to keep in budget.

Reese, who is currently building a new home, agreed, saying she would have her builder's head on a plate if they came back with such a massive increase in spending.

Councillor Tim Skinner said he was not part of the decision-making process by the last council which approved the project, but it seemed to him it was most likely pushed through with enthusiasm, but little attention to the finer details and now ratepayers would have to "pick up the bill".

Councillor Pete Rainey said using the term blowout was "emotive" as the pathway was a fantastic project and he thought there must be some rationale to the extra costs.

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Council staff will provide a report to the council explaining why the budget blew out.

The project with an original $3m budget was designed to help draw people to the area and link the city with the sea.

The area is to be called Paruroroa Park.

It is part of the bigger "Heart of Nelson" project.

River terraces have been excavated by the Trafalgar Centre, and the project includes two new parks.

There will be steps between the terrace levels, seating and timber viewing decks with access to a floating pontoon.

The Maitai Promenade, a new pathway, widened to at least three metres, will have new lighting and furniture.

- The Nelson Mail

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