Plan to save centre under way

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:58 20/06/2014

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The Nelson City Council will push ahead with the appointment of a project manager to oversee the preparation of a brief for fixing, altering and reopening the Trafalgar Centre.

No timeline or cost estimate was given at yesterday's monthly council meeting but Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said the project was a "hugely critical issue" for the city.

"Time is of the essence. We need to move forward on this. We need to get that project manager appointed as quickly as we can," she said.

The council abruptly closed the city's biggest sports and entertainment venue in December, amid fears that it could suffer a "catastrophic failure" if an earthquake hit while it was full with up to 4000 people.

It has since been pilloried by critics, who showed that council reports on the 40-year-old building's foundations were inaccurate, and were appalled by the estimated $27 million repair cost.

But at yesterday's meeting, Reese said councillors and staff had performed exceptionally well under enormous public pressure and had come to a very good conclusion.

"Some things you just can't make go away; you've got to deal with the difficult issues in front of you. We had to make a decision before Christmas that I still believe was the right decision."

Yesterday the council voted to confirm that previous plans for a northern end extension would be reduced in scale; to approve up to $450,000 for the appointment of a project manager to see the work through from investigation to reopening; and to fund expenditure from existing provisions in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 capital budgets.

The project manager's brief is to be approved by the mayor and the chair and deputy chair of the works and infrastructure committee. There was some councillor nervousness about this, and works and community services committee chair Pete Rainey was added to the group.

"We're appointing a project manager to get this thing under way. We're not designing the project," Reese said. All stages would have to be approved by the whole council, she said.

Deputy Mayor Paul Matheson said the council's plan was "sensible and pragmatic".

Reese said the council was in a much better financial position than in August last year, when the remediation project was thought to cost "upwards of $25 million".

"I'm pleased I've got your commitment to do a more modest northern end development," she told councillors. "I think that's appropriate, given the additional expenditure we're going to have on strengthening, and I think it also reflects the economic climate."

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But she warned of more challenges to come. "This will not be the last earthquake-prone building that we have."

- The Nelson Mail

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