YOUR TAURANGA CITY COUNCILLOR FOR PYES PA, BETHLEHEM, JUDEA, BROOKFIELD, BELLEVUE, OTUMOETAI AND MATUA

Authorised by Larry Baldock, 40 Hampstead Court, Pyes Pa, Tauranga 2019 

CITY COUNCILLOR

Capable, Strategic Leadership

LARRY BALDOCK

Creating Tauranga’s Civic Heart 

Oral Submission to Council

 

Oral Submission to Council on Civic Heart

 

Good afternoon Mayor Crosby, Councilors, Garry Poole and Staff.

 

It has been very interesting listening to the submissions these past three days which have contained  some excellent contributions that deserve more time for consideration.

I will have to keep some of my comments brief on some issues to focus on the main points I need to make in regard to the Council Civic administration buildings. I will quickly go through your six questions in reverse order.

 

Overall I do strongly support the vision for developing a new Civic heart for the Tauranga City CBD.

 

I have always supported the development of the Hotel on Durham St. It is the best site and could also provide space for a conference center. To get a developer to committ to the project Council may have to put ‘some skin in the game’ as one submitter put it. Hotel Operators like ACCOR have been keen for some time to operate an international brand hotel like Novotel. Good grief even little ol’ New Plymouth has a new Novotel hotel. Why not Tauranga?

 

The difficulty is in getting the building constructed as you know. Councilors have for too long in the past mostly been opposed to any approach other than getting market value for the Land. No deals, no incentives! That will have to change.  The economic return from a hotel in the CBD justifys Council taking an approach that maybe over the first 10 years does not deliver any return on investment from the land, or rates etc. Similar perhaps to arrangement Council made with the University project on Durham St. In that case it was something like 33 years History shows the proposed Hotel land owes us nothing as it cost us nothing .

 

If it is all about ‘he tangata he tangata’  ‘the people, the people’ we simply must use all strategies possible to bring people into the city. The hotel and potential conferences will certainly contribute to this.

 We have to get more people living in the city as well, which is why I commend Council for reviewing the planning rules for the city Living zone. We have to get it right this time to remove obstacles and create incentives for development of apartments in the CBD. 

 

There have been many good submissions in support of the civic amenities.

I think it is fairly clear that if you go ahead with plans to spend $62 mil on your own new building,  you will run the risk of missing this great opportunity and loosing a lot of the public support now evident for spending on the Civic amenities.

 

Briefly I agree with many submitters that the Masonic park is too small for a civic square. A bit like going on a picnic and pulling out a handkerchief instead of a blanket to sit on, and then having that picnic on the grass island in the middle of a busy street like Cameron Rd!

 

The decision for Council to formulate a master plan at this stage has been a mistake in my opinion and further feasabilty studies a waste of time and money until the issue of the Council Civic Admin building is resolved.

 

A Grand Master plan is more often than not a futile exercise in a political environment.  Some submitters have tried to suggest that you should keep politics out of this. Well good luck with that.

 

As an example of this I go back to 2010 when I was priveleged to be re-elected to Council there was a grand Master plan for the Waterfront redevelopment. It had been many years in the making under leadership of the late Bob Addison, but it quickly became clear to me that it was struggling to make any progress. Councilors were very divided about different aspects of the plan and the large proposed budget in the middle of a recession was intimidating.

 

Several of us on Council took a different approach.

Through the formation of a task force which I chaired we started work on the things we agreed on. The first project was the walkway, then the greenspace on the southern end followed by Playground and finally Hairy McClairy.

If you look out the window at the waterfront now it is significantly better than it was 5 years ago, and what has been done has been widely appreciated.

 

The crisis of the black mould has provided a catylist for the broad discussion about the opportunity for development of the Civic Heart and amenities. It has been worthwhile using that opportunity to progress aspects of the City Centre Strategy.

But now it seems to me the focus on the Grand new Civic Admin Building could end up derailing the whole thing if not managed carefully.

 

The issue of Council staff health must be treated seriously.

In fact it should not have taken this long to make decisions about this problem. Probably cost $2.5 mil in off site leasing already and another $1ml on all the reports not to mention what staff have had to put up with in the less than ideal work environments.

 

Another possible way forward which has not received much discussion in the consultation is this. 

The Regional Council now owns its own building withn the CBD and will be relocating to it once the IRD move to their new premises.

 

Over the next 10 years the discussion about amalgamation and Unitary Councils could possibly be resolved by Central Govt.  Who knows what the outcome will be, but would it not be premature of TCC to build its own new building before further Local Government reorganisation is settled. 

 

We talk a lot about saving money through shared services.  I think there is merit in talking also about shared buildings. (Not with WBOP at Barkes Corner though)

 

With BOPRC It would be joint consultation since it would be with our ‘shared ratepayers’ regarding Regional Council selling their building and relocating with this Council down here near the heart of the city.

 

If a Unitary Council is not facilitated by Central Govt in the next 5 years the next best thing would be a one stop shop for all permits and consents in one Building shared by TCC and BOPRC with one plan covering the Western Bay

 

Why not explore options of purchasing land on the periphery of the new Civic square like the Cnr of Wharf St and Willow St or Cnr of Hamilton St and Willow St. After all there has been a pretty strong message through the submissions about having too many buildings on the civic square in the current plan.

 

In summary, demolish the Admin Building on Willow St which will be the first step towards creating a civic square.

 

Get on with building the new library.

 

During this time further consultation can occur about the location of the Museum and viability of the Performance Venue.

 

If there is to be a Performance Venue further demolition to make room for this can take place at a later date. The whole thing will be a work in progress that will span at least several election cycles if not more, and probably evolve with variations over that time.

 

As many of you know I recently commissioned a poll/survey in the city.

Two of the questions were in relation to this Civic Heart consultation and proposal.

 

The poll canvassed the opinion of 600 residents in Tauranga City spread evenly across the three political wards.  The first two questions asked where, “did you vote in the last Council elections, if not are you intending to vote in the upcoming elections. Only those with a postive response to those questions were then asked any further question.    

The poll was conducted by Curia Research company from Wellington and has a margin of error of + or – 3.9%.

 

First Question At present the Council is consulting the public about building a new $62 mil Council office building as part of establishing a New Civic Heart for the CBD and then looking into possibly building a new Library, Museum and Performance Centre.

Would you say you are reasonably aware of the plans for the new building, have heard just a little about it, or have heard nothing about it?

45% were reasonably aware of the proposed new office building, 33% a little aware and 21% unaware

 

The Second Question was put only to the 45% reasonably aware voters.

 Assuming that in both options the old Administration building is demolished Do you support the Council building the new $62 million council building or renovating the other buildings for $18 million for council offices and building a new Library at approximately $28 million?

 

Overall 44% would prefer building a new library to 23% for a new council building.

17% don’t want either, and 15% are unsure.

Thankyou for your time.