Council overspends on Mapua Wharf

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A massive budget blowout on the Mapua Wharf development has “astounded” some Tasman district councillors who say they have been kept in the dark about the extent of the overspend.

The council’s March quarterly financial report to be presented to a full council on Thursday states that commercial activity will be overspent by $577,000 with “the majority of this overspend”  relating to the work being undertaken at Mapua Wharf. Last year, council completed a major retail development at Mapua Wharf which was opened in mid-December and at the time was reported to come in about $20,000 under the budgeted to cost $1.2m.

However, councillors Judene Edgar and Trevor Norriss say the latest financial report shows the cost of the project appears to have blown out significantly and they want to know why. Judene and Trevor are also astounded that councillors weren’t informed about the extent of the overspend “until now” and Judene says that staff should have been accountable to council.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this figure and it looks like it’s not $20,000 or $30,000 over which would not be a major overspend in a budget the size of council’s. It’s $577,000 and we haven’t even seen a report on it yet.

“The only thing we’ve heard is that there had been a few delays but that was months ago. We were told, back then, that it was still going to be managed within budget and clearly that’s not the case.

“Council has a process for these projects and that process wasn’t followed here. If there’s going to be a cost overrun, then council has options – they can decide to reduce the scale of the project or stop work or make a request for extra funding.”

Trevor says he plans to ask some questions about the budget overspend and lack of communication from staff at Thursday’s meeting. He also wants to know how much of the $577,000 overspend went on the Mapua Wharf development.

“It’s a lot of money so I’ll be asking some questions,” Trevor says. “It’s not clear from the report how much of this $577,000 was spent on Mapua so I want to find out.”

Mayor Richard Kempthorne says the amount of money overspent on the Mapua’s Shed 4 is presently unknown but will soon be included in report to council. Richard says the Shed 4 building was completed under budget but that extra work was needed for stormwater, landscaping and parking around the building.

However, Richard agrees that it would have been “preferable” for staff to inform councilors about the extra work before approving the overspend.

“We needed to do the work but it’s not the way things should be done,” he says.

The Mapua Wharf development is also expected to come under fire from representatives of the Mapua and Districts Community Association in the public forum at Thursday’s meeting. Secretary Graeme Stradling says a fence being constructed by council near the Shed 4 retail development is upsetting the community because it is “ugly” and “divisive” and contradicts “community partnerships and good neighbour attitudes”.

Graeme says the fence has already been cut down once by “fairies” before it was completed and could well meet the same fate again. Graeme also alleges that council is putting the fence up as the result of a restraint of trade disagreement with a ice-cream parlour Hamish’s”, which plans to open in an adjacent premises.

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne says the fence is being erected to protect one of the tenants of Shed 4 who have made a”significant” investment in their coffee and ice-cream shop and to “tidy-up and secure” the alley between the new and old buildings. He says the fence will be see-through and will protect gas bottles that will be stored in the alley.