One of Tasman district’s longest serving councillors Trevor Norriss has always called a spade a spade and he did just that on Thursday in a heated debate about a “huge” budget blowout on the Mapua Wharf’s Shed 4.
Trevor was speaking out at a full council meeting in Richmond, after hearing that council’s commercial activity had overspent its budget by $577,000 with “the majority of this overspend” relating to the work being undertaken at the Mapua Wharf. It was the first time councillors had been given any indication of the extent of the overspend and Trevor wanted to know why they had not been informed.
“In all my time in this council, I’ve never seen a figure like this come from a commercial subcommittee,” Trevor told the meeting. “There’d better be a bloody good explanation, that’s all I can say Mr Mayor.”
Trevor, who is chair of the engineering services committee and been on council for almost 21 years, also said he was concerned that staff had not followed the right process by failing to inform councilors about the overspend.
“In engineering, or with any other staff, if there is an overspend they come into council and ask for it. I want to know how the services for some of that work were completed and if they went through the same processes that council has to follow for everything else.
“When I read this, it’s not just a little cost overrun, it’s huge. In fact, I’m starting to worry about the whole set up the way the commercial activities in this council are run.”
Councilors Judene Edgar and Mark Greening also criticised the lack of transparency surrounding the budget blowout. Judene said it was astounding that “you can suddenly get to this stage and say it could be $500,000 or so over budget” after the Shed 4 building was opened in December.
Mark said “council does not tolerate overspending” and supported a resolution, that was later passed, that council should stop any further capital spending on the Mapua Wharf development until a report on the overspend is available on June 30.
Chief executive Lindsay McKenzie and mayor Richard Kempthorne downplayed the overspend with Lindsay saying that all the questions would be addressed in the June 30 report. Lindsay said he was “not prepared, at this point to make any judgement about prudence or otherwise, about the commitments until I see the explanations as well”.
Lindsay said there had been an agreement to wait until the report was released before the issue was discussed but Judene disputed that statement.
“Nothing has been agreed to and I’m a little surprised that it can take this long to know about all of these problems,” Judene says. “From the opening of the building in December to now, it’s been six months and possibly $500,000 which seems like a lot of money and lot of time for a lot of we don’t know.”