Centre foundations will be scrutinised

Nelson City Council will investigate the foundations of the Trafalgar Centre as questions continue about the conditions of the buildings' piles.

The depth of the piles has been a point of debate between the council and Kerry Neal and Gaire Thompson, who have spoken out against the closing the centre because they did not trust the information the council had been provided with "which had been taken as gospel".

Yesterday at the council works and infrastructure committee, Mr Neal produced a Nelson Mail article from 1971, which discussed the depth of the piles for the building. According to the article he was correct at saying they were about 11 metres not 3m as council staff and engineering consultants had said.

Mayor Rachel Reese said she appreciated the work Mr Neal and others had done researching the building and it was important the council had all the information before it made any decisions.

"One of the issues that remains is that we don't have a direct line of sight or camera photos of what is done there in terms of the foundations and we would like to know that," she said. "From my point of view I want to know the answers to those questions.

"I do want to know how deep the foundations are. I do want to know what condition they are in because I want the project team to have the best information possible to come up with a design solution that we know is going to work and I don't want to be guessing about the condition and depth of the foundations."

The depth of the piles still did not the change the fact the building was not deemed safe in its present state, but Ms Reese said the investigation could make the current $27 million price tag of fixing the building less. "We are talking such large sums here that it would be imprudent of us to make the decision without asking those questions," said Ms Reese.

Councillor Luke Acland said he supported giving $20,000 for the investigation, but with reluctance.

Despite councillors seeking further advice on the foundation because of the questions raised by Mr Neal, council chief executive Clare Hadley said she would not respond to anything he had to say and would not say if council staff had been wrong in stating the piles were at 3m.

"The response from the council is that it's taking advice from specialists. Tonkin and Taylor are our geotechnic experts and we have their advice and the council has made its decision from there; that's what I would focus on."

Council group manager infrastructure Alec Louverdis said engineers working on the centre had interviewed people involved in building the centre to learn about the foundations and no-one was trying to "deceive anyone".

The chief executive and mayor have decided to bring in a specialist who can help the project team bring together all the possible options for the future of the centre.

Other options could include demolishing the centre and rebuilding another facility, which at current estimates of $28m-$30m would cost little more than fixing the centre in its present state. The council has allocated $20,000 to the investigation, which will be undertaken "as soon as possible".