A concept design of the proposed Stoke Community Centre.

Extra $350k for Stoke Centre

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Stoke’s new community centre at Greenmeadows Reserve has one final hurdle to clear before it can become a reality.

Nelson City Council’s community services committee was told on Thursday that the lowest tender price for the build has come in at $350,000 over budget, and a recommendation that full council approve the additional funding was passed six votes to two.

Committee chair Pete Rainey and Tim Skinner were the only members to oppose it.

The council will now decide on one of three options for the project at a meeting on September 8, which are: increase the budget by $350,000, reduce the scope of the project to bring it into budget, or not proceed with the project.

If approved, tender negotiations will be completed and work can start.

The additional $350,000 would bring the total budget for the project to $6,490,000 – but it isn’t the first cost blow-out. In July last year, the committee agreed to increase the budget for the project from $5.6 to $6.14 million.

Concerns over the budget overrun were voiced in the meeting’s public forum by Stuart Walker and Steve Cross, who both said the project needed to be revisited.

“It’s the second budget overrun that’s happened, even before a sod of earth is turned,” said Steve.

“This looks more and more like a project built on sand.”

However, manager capital projects Shane Davies told the committee that the mechanical costs of the green heating and cooling system were underestimated by 50 per cent.

He said that they could cut costs by changing the heating system, but sticking with the green system would save more money long-term.

Other options were removing the proposed cafe space and the dividing doors between the main hall and meeting spaces.

The committee were also told that the neighbouring St Barnabas Church land will no longer be available for the project, but it will not affect the location and design of the proposed facility.

Councillor Mike Ward strongly supported the approval of the additional funding, saying the building will “calm Stoke down”.

“It needs to be an iconic building, not just any building,” he said.

“This should be the anchor activity in Stoke. It is the choice we have made and it’s up to us to get on with it – let’s build it.”

Mayor Rachel Reese echoed his thoughts, saying that Stoke is “ready and waiting” for the centre.

Councillors Ruth Copeland and Matt Lawrey also voted to get the project green-lighted.

The proposed community centre has been strongly supported by Stoke Seniors, Stoke Rugby Club, Stoke Tennis Club and Nelson Cricket, who have said they were “delighted” with the plans at a meeting of community groups back in May.

But Tim Skinner said he struggled to support an additional $350,000.

“The costs seem to have grown and grown – at some stage we need to cut some costs,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting, mayoral candidate Pete Rainey said he “doesn’t agree with spending any more on this project”.

“Now that the land next door at St Barnabas has been made unavailable, I think the whole project has lost the potential to really make a difference for Stoke,” he said.

“It’s far too constrained, squeezed in between a car park and the tennis courts, and doesn’t serve the majority of Stoke people. I’d far rather the project was scaled down, and redeveloped in order to build new rooms for Stoke Rugby, Tennis and Cricket, with the resulting savings being put towards improving the Stoke Memorial Hall.”