Waimakariri faces rise in repair bill

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2012
Rangiora Town Hall
Peter Meecham

GREEN LIGHT: An improved Rangiora Town Hall with a performing arts centre was given the go-ahead yesterday.

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A "challenging" construction market has pushed up the expected cost of earthquake rebuild projects in the Waimakariri district by millions of dollars.

This week Waimakariri District Council will consider plans to rebuild the Kaiapoi service centre building and to strengthen the Rangiora Town Hall.

The new service centre, which includes the town's library and museum, was approved as an $8.6 million rebuild in December last year.

Council chief executive Jim Palmer said the expected cost now sat at $10.1 million and would rise again to $12m by the time the contract was tendered in a year.

"We got [the initial quantity surveyor estimate] in September last year. That was felt to be representative of costs at that time.

"They're saying ... we'd better anticipate a further 10 per cent in terms of cost increase from an increasingly challenging contracting market."

More recovery projects would be under way in a year, Palmer said, and building contractors would reflect the greater demand in their prices.

"It's certainly something which we're not that pleased about but the reality is we need to be making reasonable budget provisions," he said.

The council was considering applying to the Earthquake Appeal Trust for a $3.5m grant.

Strengthening the quake-damaged Rangiora Town Hall would cost an estimated $4.6m, up from $3.8m last year.

An option to add a performing arts centre to the building, which is the council's preference, would now cost $9.6m instead of $7.5m.

The new centre would feature a 150-seat theatre, some performing arts practice spaces and audio-visual facilities.

Meanwhile, the council will also incur an estimated $100,000 in extra costs if an earthquake rates remission plan is approved next week.

The council will consider a plan tonight to extend its rates relief to quake-hit property owners for another financial year.

Landowners unable to live in their properties because of quake damage pay only vacant-land rates.

The current relief, which 340 properties have qualified for, will end on June 30 and has cost $435,000.

In the 2010-11 financial year, 351 properties qualified for remissions totalling $470,000.

The council budgeted $1.2m for rates remission over three years and it predicts it will cost another $396,000 when that period ends in June next year.

Chief financial officer Jeff Millward said 117 properties still qualified for relief, but many of the 580 red-zone properties in private ownership would join them when they transferred to government ownership.

"Once they sell the property and the Government owns it, we recognise the remission from that date because there won't be anyone taking any services. It's just treated like vacant land.

"Within the red zone, you'll find that, with the 580 residents, there's actually people living in the houses."

Those properties would continue to pay rates for services such as sewerage and water until they were unoccupied on acceptance of the Government's offer.

The drop of more than 200 properties eligible for relief was because some homeowners who had been temporarily forced from their land had moved back in and some had already taken up a government offer and had their houses demolished.

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Residential red-zone properties that cannot be economically repaired are subject to a government offer to buy them for the rating valuation of the land or the land and building.

- The Press

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