Winner of CBD deal in at start

The firm awarded the contract to design the upgrade of the Invercargill central business district had inside knowledge of what was required, having earlier been subcontracted to help produce a broadly based CBD "outline action plan".

The revelation raises questions around the integrity of the process, but those involved insist it was above board and fair to all parties.

The Invercargill City Council announced last month that Christchurch company Pocock Design:Environment had been chosen to design the upgrade of the Invercargill CBD.

The council had set aside $130,000 for the work.

Pocock Design had been in a three-way battle to get the contract with Queenstown's Baxter Design Group and CCM Architects Ltd, of Wellington, also in the running.

Pocock Design boss Craig Pocock, who said he was excited to get the contract, confirmed yesterday his company had also been involved in putting together the original CBD outline action plan document for public discussion. His firm had been subcontracted by Urbanismplus to do the landscape design portion of the work, he said.

Now his company has been awarded the contract to design the CBD upgrade, the roles will be reversed.

Mr Pocock said yesterday his company would be using Urbanismplus to make sure they stayed on the right track when designing the work.

His company had openly competed against some of the biggest firms in New Zealand to win the contract, he said.

"We just had the better proposal . . . I don't think we got it because we worked with them [CBD Working Group] previously. We never assumed we had the inside running at all."

Kobus Mentz, of Urbanismplus, did not return calls yesterday, but a staff member said its future involvement in the CBD upgrade would be quite small.

Invercargill City Council director of works and services Cameron McIntosh said all the bidders for the design work were given the same documentation to work from before pitching their design plans.

"The inner-city working group chose the successful one on its merit and there has been no information withheld and the successful person [Mr Pocock] was very open about his involvement both before and after," Mr McIntosh said.

CBD Working Group boss Norman Elder said yesterday Pocock Design had the advantage of being involved in the initial process for the CBD work, but said all contenders were judged on their merits when the contract was awarded.

He preferred Pocock Design's bid because it had a good understanding of how the inner-city working group wanted to make sure the CBD design worked for businesses in the area, he said.

Baxter Design Group boss Paddy Baxter, whose company lost out on the contract, said they were given a fair crack at winning the contract.

CCM Architects director John Rogers said he also had no problems so long as any conflicts of interest were declared and made obvious to the people making the decision.

Meanwhile, Mr Pocock is due in Invercargill today to discuss the way forward for the CBD upgrade design work, with community consultation to begin early next year.

The Southland Times