Youth centre's number isn't up

The Invercargill City Council is hardly going to render the Number 10 youth centre homeless.

The council is the landlord for the Esk St facility behind the former bowling green, but the building doesn't feature in the precinct development envisaged in the council's inner-city upgrade plan.

This is unsettling for the organisations at Number 10 that provide a one-stop shop for the range of youth services, particularly as the lease runs out in two months.

But there's no need for a silent-film pianist to start playing. The council, isn't about to don a villain's black hat, twirl its moustache, and cast the services out into the cold.

The councillors are hardly blind to the good that Number 10 does, nor the public standing it has. In the short term, the lease looks likely to be extended. Further out, displacement may be on the cards, though that's far from certain, and even if that happens another premises would be found.

When Cr Graham Sycamore said as much in yesterday's paper he was repeating assurances issued by several councillors, and unchallenged by the rest, when the plan was adopted in August. The council will certainly expect to be held to this.

Perhaps most significant among the councillor chorus of support was the strong indication from Cr Alan Dennis, who is also the Invercargill Licensing Trust president, that the trust would not be walking away from its interest in Number 10.

Whether the land under the existing building is really needed for the recreational area envisaged in the plan is the sort of question that can be answered only when the council comes to consider such details in in close scrutiny.

Which hasn't happened yet. The public was seriously spooked that, by adopting the plan, the councillors had set in place a juggernaut (an expensive one at that) that would proceed with scant deviation and no brake.

Predictions that heads would roll at the subsequent local body elections proved unfounded - those who voted for, or against, the plan's adoption each had sufficient support that those from both sides who stood for re-election were all returned.

As it stands, the plan is a framework idea that the council likes and supports. But each step of it requires specific, detailed consideration, including meaningful public consultation, before getting a green light. Much could change. As consultant Craig Pocock said: there's more work, more design, more consultation required as the council goes through each of the stages during the coming years. The conversation has merely started; not ended.

Since then, it must be said, there hasn't been a great deal of conspicuous momentum.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt says the upgrade has to be done slowly.

Sure, but here's the thing. Slowness is not a virtue in itself. If it's a consequence of proceeding with diligence and care, then fair enough. But that's as distinct from dithering, or functionally abandoning a task until things cool down.

The upgrade will surely feature strongly when the new council holds this term's "strategic meeting" in Invercargill this weekend.

You're not invited. These conclaves, previously known as "retreats", are significant for more than team bonding. They're where councillors look at their plans for the next three years and try to get a concerted vision going. Lots of imperatives to balance this time - the upgrade, water quality issues, transparency . . . that sort of thing.

The Southland Times