Residents angry at cost blowout

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 09:00 28/02/2013

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Mercury Bay's mostly retired ratepayers have been told they willl be paying $100 a year for 25 years to pay for Whitianga's $8 million Sportsville complex that has come in $2 million over budget.

Mayor Glenn Leach called a public meeting at Whitianga Town Hall yesterday following a damning Deloitte report which found Thames-Coromandel District Council's project management team only did rough costings on the 10ha site and operated outside of the council's computerised ledger system.

Mercury Bay resident Lou O'Reilly, one of 100 people at the meeting, asked how much the 10ha project would cost him, and how long he could be expected to pay.

"Today I hear it's $100 per year, this in unaffordable. Where are you coming from? How long is that $100 a year going to be for?"

Mr Leach, who said he was horrified by the budget blowout, said 2010 figures showed a cost of $80 per ratepayer, but it had been revised to $100 to be paid over 25 years.

"Thanks very much," was Mr O'Reilly's response.

Mr Leach, who was elected in October 2010, months after the project was given the green light, said: "You have all seen the building. I know you were horrified by it, I was horrified by it too . . . 200 of you can go out there and shower at any one time. Even though we have got this monster, don't forget you will still end up with a three per cent decrease in rates this year."

Mercury Bay resident John Hickson wanted to see the figures that showed a complex that large was necessary in the first place.

It includes an ablution block, with room for a grandstand, alongside five playing fields built to international specifications for rugby, rugby league and soccer; five marked asphalt netball courts and three asphalt tennis courts.

"Looking around here none of us would use it," he said. "By the time people reach 30 they are gone from here. There's no jobs here."

Sam Marshall, the council's new area manager for Mercury Bay, responded with: "Age is no barrier, so we do expect all of you out there on the fields."

Council chief executive David Hammond said no business case had been produced for the project before building began. "We understand there has been a significant loss of trust of the council. We definitely understand that."

Resident John Evans gave Mr Leach, Mr Hammond and Mr Marshall full marks for having the guts to stand up at the meeting. "It's very easy to blame everyone else. Who are the positive people that want to see Whitianga move forward?"

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- Waikato

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