Route designer did not have to tender

"It could disadvantage the designers if pricing information were to be released,"

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012
tdn lite stand
JONATHAN CAMERON
Lighting design company Toulouse Group was appointed to design the route for this year's festival without having to tender for the contract.

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A Wellington company was appointed to design the route for New Plymouth's TSB bank Festival of Lights just weeks after another Wellington company controversially won the contract to install it.

Lighting design company Toulouse Group was appointed from a pool of three lighting companies to design the route for this year's festival. The company did not have to tender for the contract.

The council's community services general manager, Cathy Thurston, said she could not remember what the other two companies were but the Wellington Toulouse Group was the most experienced. Yesterday Ms Thurston was also not saying how much the route design contract was worth other than it was part of the $90,400 design and feature budget from which at least five other feature designers are paid.

"Although the council will typically release total price figures for larger jobs that are tendered out, it does not always do so for smaller contracts.

"In this case, given the jobs are relatively small, it could disadvantage the designers if pricing information were to be released," Ms Thurston said. A route designer had not been contracted in the last three years but the council had used them in the past. Ms Thurston said the council had decided to employ one this year following a disappointing public response to last year's festival.

Toulouse has done lighting design work at Puke Ariki and has been involved in the Festival of the lights in the past.

It was behind the lighting at The Hobbit premiere and The Cloud for last year's Rugby World Cup.

In July Tawa-based MJF Lighting was awarded the three-year lighting installation contract for the festival over New Plymouth-based Wells Instrument and Electrical, which had held the contract for the previous nine years and whose $363,650 tender was $26,100 cheaper.

Following that decision the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce and New Plymouth Grey Power made calls for council to implement a policy of preferring local suppliers.

Yesterday Wells boss Graham Wells said he did not have a problem with MJF Lighting but the council had not adequately explained why his tender was not successful.

It is understood the tender documents were reviewed by three council staff and the process was overseen by the council's recreation and events manager, Brent Thawley.

At the time Mr Thawley would not say who was on the panel and evaluation documents recently released to councillors have panel members' names blanked out.

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Mayor Harry Duynhoven said this had been to prevent panel members potentially being targeted by parties who imagined "something untoward had been done" during evaluation.

"I think it would be unfair on those people to expect their names be released. If you go to a major company I am sure they are not putting out who is making tender evaluations," Mr Duynhoven said.

Councillor Shaun Biesiek said focusing on the panel members was unhelpful as it was councillors' job to oversee the governance of council, not its management. .

Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow said she had personally reviewed the tendering process undertaken for the Festival of Lights and was completely confident the process was managed professionally and properly.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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