Mayor rejects Miccio's views on closure

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 13:00 19/02/2014
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Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese is sticking by the city council's decision to close the Trafalgar Centre, despite criticism from former mayor Aldo Miccio, who says the move was unnecessary.

Ms Reese has hit back, saying it was a decision deferred by the previous council and that Mr Miccio has not been privy to all the information.

Councillors will consider options for the future of the Trafalgar Centre at the Nelson City Council's March 6 meeting.

"The decision on the next steps for the Trafalgar Centre is going to come down to cost, and we are going to be weighing that up - how much earthquake strengthening is going to cost, and whether that's a prudent investment for the ratepayers of Nelson," said Ms Reese.

"If our engineers' report and legal advice come back saying [that] in order to satisfy the strengthening, we need to spend $25 million on the Trafalgar Centre, I cannot see us doing that.

"If they say it will cost $10 million to improve the Victory Room and the entrance with earthquake strengthening, I think I would question that."

For the centre to reopen, the council would need to address the concerns identified by engineers, and also consider whether it could complete the upgrading work, Ms Reese said.

"We are better to get on and complete the job, I think that's what the people of Nelson want."

Last December councillors decided to close the 40-year-old centre because of earthquake risk, with Ms Reese saying the decision was made as a result of engineering and legal advice that if the centre was in use during a moderate earthquake, the risk of loss of life would be high.

Mr Miccio, who was voted out as mayor last October, is calling on the council to reverse its decision and reopen the centre, saying Nelson is losing out on events because of its closure.

In an opinion column in the Nelson Mail this week, he said the closure was unnecessary. He believed the council should adopt the Wellington City Council's approach - that when a building fell below the national legislative standard of 33 per cent, it was kept open but with signs and advice warning the public to enter at their own risk. The policy has been in place for the Wellington Town Hall, the council chambers, the mayor's office and the State Opera House.

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Ms Reese said Mr Miccio was entitled to his view but he was not privy to the information the councillors had.

"It's not a decison any of us wanted to make, but we inherited the decision because it was deferred from the previous council.

"It was not made before because further information was requested to address the public safety risk. That came forward, we assessed it, we made a call."

She said she did not regret the decision. "It's always a judgment call."

Because of public feedback since the closure, she had asked council chief executive Clare Hadley and group manager infrastructure Alec Louverdis if there was anything that would cause them to change their minds, and the answer had been no, she said.

Ms Reese declined to say how councillors had voted, because it had been in a public-excluded meeting.

She said there were other council-owned buildings where the same approach had been taken as in Wellington, with warning signs. However, the difference was around the risk profile of the buildings.

The previous council knew there were problems with the Trafalgar Centre, and no bookings were taken from last July because of the upgrade work programme, she said.

There was a planned upgrade for the northern section, but the previous council chose to defer that work until further information about the centre's earthquake risk was available.

The works and infrastructure committee had spent hours discussing the issues before the matter went to the council for a decision.

The council had commissioned further legal advice on legislation and its obligations, Ms Reese said.

The options were to have been considered at a council meeting on February 27, but this had been deferred to March 6, which would allow the council to get more information, she said.

Council staff, Sport Tasman and community organisations were working well together to accommodate events at other venues, and had confirmed bookings through to next year.

- The Nelson Mail

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