Council adopts upgrade plan

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2013
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The Invercargill City Council adopted the CBD upgrade master plan last night but cost estimates have ballooned by a further $2.35 million.

The motion passed eight votes in favour, five against, even though the grand total cost estimate almost doubled the original estimated cost of $6.682m.

The CBD upgrade is now estimated to cost $12,195,000.

Councillors Lindsay Thomas, Lloyd Esler, Thelma Buck, Ian Pottinger and Lindsay Abbot all voted against the motion.

The adoption of the plan came after nearly four hours of speakers, discussions and debate.

City councillor and inner city working group boss Norman Elder said by adopting the plan, councillors were not adopting the cost.

"Adopting the plan is not committing you to the funding of the estimate in the plan."

"You can't approve the funding because we do not know what it is going to cost."

But Ian Pottinger disputed Mr Elder's comments and said the funding had already been outlined and by adopting the plan, the council was committing to funding the project.

"Made up of money that is coming from the magic money tree."

However, Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said the information about the estimates and the funding were published because it would be "irresponsible" for the council to put out the master plan without giving the public an idea of where the funding was going to come from.

"You can have comfort as councillors that in approving this master plan that the money is there."

Roading manager Russell Pearson said residents could also take comfort that the council would undergo "robust" trials of one laning on Dee St and Tay St.

The New Zealand Transport Association strongly supported a trial of the road changes to ensure they were viable and safe, he said.

His comments came after a petition with more than 1000 signatures was presented to the council last week and speakers in the public forum raised their concerns about the street changes.

Inner city working group member Bruce Maher, turned against the group he had been working with for the past 2 years to raise his concerns about parking and the street changes to Dee and Tay streets.

He felt so strongly about the issue, he had to raise it in the public forum, he said.

However, despite the resounding disapproval from public forum speakers, some councillors were swayed by the director of the design company who came up with the plan.

Pocock Design: Environment director Craig Pocock won over several of the councillors with his explanation of the designs.

Councillor Alan Dennis had been ready to "put on the handbrake" to the plans before the meeting, but instead voted for the adoption.

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Councillor Carolyn Dean said by postponing the work the cost of building and completing the plan would go up and the council should start the process now.

Despite nearly every councillor raising the issue of earthquake prone buildings and the threat of some business owners walking away from their properties, Mr Pocock said the plan would give assurance to investors that the council was investing in the city and its future.

Cr Darren Ludlow agreed.

"Sometimes making that right decision is not always the most popular one."

- The Southland Times

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