Toilet landscaping idea gets brush-off

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 31/01/2014

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The Nelson City Council has decided against spending an additional $30,000 on landscaping the vamped-up Buxton Square car park toilets, and will create three extra car parks instead.

Group manager of infrastructure Alec Louverdis suggested to councillors at yesterday's works and infrastructure committee meeting that they did not approve the additional expenditure on the revised project which was already over budget.

Final invoices were yet to be received but the latest projection placed what was meant to have been a $75,000 low-cost revamp in the vicinity of a $120,000 project.

However, councillors pointed out that was still less than half the budget of the original plan, sidelined in favour of the "place making" experiment which council staff reclaimed in order to have it finished in time.

Last year the council said it was looking for an alternative approach to the upgrade, and was aiming for a "creative and different public toilet", and dropped a $330,000-plus plan after it had already spent $40,000 on an architecturally designed proposal.

The council engaged Australian public spaces designer David Engwicht to help with ways to improve the toilets in the central city car park.

Mr Engwicht, who has no formal training as an urban planner, charged a fee of just under $10,000.

Councillor Kate Fulton took charge of the project which aimed to attract as much volunteer input as possible. A number of planning and design days were held, which attracted a good number of people, but offers of free help with the trade component of the significant construction project did not eventuate.

In November last year council staff reclaimed the upgrade project, as hopes faded for getting the job done in time using volunteers. The budget also had to be increased so contractors could be appointed, including an architect who would draft changes needed to secure a building consent, Mr Louverdis said at the time.

Ms Fulton also conceded that it was "probably a bit ambitious" to tackle a project of its size as an experiment in community engagement.

The plan included landscaping the northern frontage of the toilet block, which is currently a motorcycle park, but committee chairman Eric Davy said the cost of removing the parks and landscaping was a further $30,000.

The investigation into shifting the motorcycle parks outside the toilet identified three further car parks could be created elsewhere in Buxton Sq and the committee has agreed to progressing that at minimal cost.

Councillor Mike Ward said at yesterday's meeting it was a first attempt at a community-based approach to a project.

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"I understand there were issues around this and even though it's an over-run we're still making substantial savings on the original plan," he said.

Councillor Matt Lawrey did not support funding further landscaping works. He said Nelson now had a "colourful, creative and delightful toilet block", but at the same time it was in the middle of a car park and there were better places for people to hang out.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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