May 9 2018 - Moving The Council Will Cost

Moving The Council Will Cost

by Vince Cocurullo

Okara Ward Councillor, Whangarei District Council


As you would have seen in the Whangarei District Council long term plan, there are calls for a brand new civic centre building which could house the WDC as well as the NRC and NZ Transport Agency. 

If I was to think logically, it would make common sense to me to have one building with all the above bodies in it, as communication between all local body staff would be easier, especially when they need to work on funding for the same stretch of road. Also, it makes common sense to try and use the construction work to try and re-vitalise the district.  However, every big decision comes with a cost.

Assuming NRC, WDC and NZTA can share a building happily, a question arises: who would be the landlord? The WDC has about 350 full time employees; NRC has about 190 employees. WDC has total assets of $1.7bn. NRC has assets totalling around $150m, and the WDC collects rates on behalf of NRC.  However, what if the landlord was a private developer?

It was asked of the public for their view as to where the building could be in Whangarei.  The WDC received 422 submissions on three civic centre options, with the options being Forum North’s site, a CBD location, or the RSA site.

Of the three location options:

  • 38% (161) preferred the current site at Forum North
  • 30% (125) preferred a central business district location
  • 22% (91) preferred the RSA site
  • 11% (45) did not select any of these as a preferred site

None of these results indicated any overwhelming consensus, and the results were slightly skewed due to a fault within the website, as the website wouldn’t allow you to continue unless you had ticked all the boxes.

General points raised by the submissions were:

  • There is no need for a new facility
  • Council should not be investing in this project as there are higher priorities (with roading the most commonly cited example)
  • The options quoted are all too expensive
  • It should be sited away from the city centre

Last week’s council briefing noted “an underlying sentiment that if Council is to proceed with the development of a new civic centre for Council administration, there is an expectation that it would incorporate the expansion of arts/cultural facilities in the wider Forum North precinct.”

Within the Councillors, there are very much two schools of thought.  One that the new Civic centre should be located within the CBD, and the other it should be located on already owned Council land.

However, questions that keep coming to my mind about the whole project, and I want to hear from you to see if I’m right with my thinking.

If I was building a new building, that will be used for 500 staff, and it would also be an emergency centre in case of a disaster, would I want to position it in a flood prone area?  Would I need to include over 1000 carparks, for staff, visitors and buses?  Would I need to build it close to the arterial roading network for easy access?  Or do I need to build a building at all, as we are now in a mobile society and due to technology we are all able to work from home?

Find me online @WhangareiFirst

And find more information in the Long Term Plan Consultation Document about the proposed new Civic Centre here: