The new Greenmeadows Centre won’t be completed until 2019. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Frustration over Stoke centre ‘shambles’

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Overwhelming disappointment is the feeling of the Stoke community when they speak about the management of the Greenmeadows Centre.

Residents say they feel let down by the Nelson City Council as well as the contractors tasked with building them a community hub.

It was announced last week by Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese and CEO Pat Dougherty that an independent audit had uncovered more construction work that needs to be redone before it can officially open.

The project has already had a $1million budget increase from its original price and has had its deadline pushed out several times.

Problems includes windows that are not properly installed, roof strengthening, and re-positioning of drainage, among other things.

At a recent media conference the director of Auckland based contractor Watts and Hughes, Rob Murphy, said that the company would do everything it needed to do to ensure Nelson gets a building that is quality.

“We have a reputation and we live on that reputation,” he said.

If there were any issues with the build they would be back to fix it, he said. He also expected the centre to be open by August.

However, now work is expected to take at least the rest of the year. It was originally scheduled to open late last year.

Stoke resident Grant Mulder says it feels like “Auckland’s done a runner”.

Auckland-based contractor Watts and Hughes Ltd have been under fire for their management of the project.

“We have been left to pick up the pieces,” says Grant. “The management has been not good at all, I’m very disappointed. They should’ve kept it the same, why a building can cost so much, I don’t know. The council seems to waste money in lots of areas.”

Lynley Gilchrist-Lunn, who will occupy the cafe space says it will be a beautiful building, but sadly the build problems have meant that this year has been a “personal disaster” for her.

“We need to open soon, or we won’t be opening at all. I remain committed to the project and to Stoke as a whole, despite the enormous and stressful disappointment in terms of time, money and general goodwill of the community that the build process has generated. I’m hopeful that when it is finished, people will use it and this whole process will be forgotten.”

Tim Jary, who often shops in Stoke, says the people of the community have been caught up in the politics of the building.

“It’s such a shame for the people it’s been designed for, that’s my view.”

Stoke resident Nikki Ryan says, “it’s a bit of a joke really”.

“But it’s not very funny. I’m really gutted, with a lot of aspects of it, from the manipulation of the carparking to the out of town tender.

“I’m all for having a good practice in place to make sure we are maximising on the dollar but now look where we are … someone needs to be held accountable.”

Kim Biggs, operations manager of the Stoke Rugby Club, one of the major stakeholders, says the club is “very disappointed with how everything’s turned out”.

“The council have worked really hard to allow us partial use of the building but now with the latest construction findings it puts us back to square one so yes, we are very disappointed.”

Mayor Rachel Reese says she found it “extraordinary” that the project has gotten to this point.

“We expect the parties to meet their obligations in terms of delivering this project.”
Council says it will try to recover as much of the costs as possible but will also face some extra as they take on legal and expert advice. Councillor Mel Courtney says the centre represents an “appalling case of mismanagement”.

Richard Waite, president of the Stoke Tennis Club, which is also another stakeholder, says the situation is regrettable.

“However, we remain confident that the end result will deliver a lasting benefit to [the club] and to the Stoke community.”

Nelson Cricket general manager Dave Leonard says in 10 to 15 years time it will be a “fantastic facility”.

“And everyone will have forgotten about these issues, hopefully.”