The Cromwell Memorial Hall will be demolished but questions have been raised about a budget blowout and how much reach a council has.
At a Central Otago District Council meeting on Wednesday last week, the council approved the demolition of the old hall. As a council-owned building, only the council could approve its demolition.
But the cost of the new hall, which has increased from a proposed $31.5 million to $42.8m, was sounding alarm bells for some.
Cr Stu Duncan said the council needed to consider how to try to make sure the blowout was not going to continue.
At the council’s long-term plan process in 2021 the council was told it would cost $30m but it had now gone a third above that.
‘‘We are not a gift horse. That price was good enough 18 months ago. Inflation is running at 6% so this is a big lift,’’ he said.
He said there was bridges in the district which might not be fixed, yet there had been an $11m blowout on this project.
Council property and facilities manager Garreth Robinson said once more detailed work had been carried out then costs had to be adjusted. But he was confident the cost would not increase any further.
Cr Tracy Paterson said the proposal had $5m of funding from external funding and wondered what would happen if the $5m could not be secured.
Mr Robinson said if the $5m funding did not happen, the proposal would have to come back to the board.
Mayor Tim Cadogan said the issue was about what the council was being asked to do. Under the council’s operating structure, the Cromwell Community Board has control over its money and decision-making.
‘‘The money comes from Cromwell and it is their business the way they spend it. They are benefiting from the Cromwell Borough Council making some really smart investment decisions 30 years ago’’ he said.
He said he talked to other local government leaders and staff around the country who were always shocked about how much autonomy community boards had in Central Otago.
He said it was the decision of Cromwell residents to build a hall the ‘‘size of the Balclutha town hall’’.
The council investment into the project was coming from Cemetery Rd industrial development land sales in Cromwell.
Cr Duncan asked when such projects went beyond the reach of the community boards.
Cr Martin McPherson said delegation of the project should have been debated seven years ago, when the project was in its infancy.
Cr Cheryl Laws said the project was gaining momentum but more work had to be done yet.
The council also decided the hall project would be included in the district review of museums.