Taupo¯ District Council-funded business cases are now being prepared, apparently to help council decide which of its three preferred sites is best for its council administration building (CAB) — the Tu¯wharetoa St carpark, council’s former Lake Tce site or their Option B site on Tongariro Domain. Will these business cases start from a level playing field financially? I hope not for numerous reasons:
1. The Tu¯wharetoa St carpark is not “free council land” because it cost ratepayers plenty to buy it. This site has strategic potential for a carpark building, jointly designed to accommodate Taupo¯’s future regional bus depot, replacing Tongariro St’s inadequate bus facilities. The negative lost opportunity costs of unnecessarily locating CAB there, should include the value of commercial space lost for real businesses to locate near a new passenger transport hub.
2. Tongariro Domain is a Crownowned Recreation Reserve. Council manages it for the Crown under the Reserves Act. Council’s known risk is that the Crown must approve an aberrant council office building on this Crown-designated Recreation Reserve. But why would the Crown approve it when it’s unlawful under the Reserves Act, it’s unlawful under Council’s Crown-approved Tongariro Domain Reserve Management Plan 2005 and there is significant community opposition to it?
3. When developing a credible business case for the Tongariro Domain CAB plans, will the full negative costs of losing existing community facilities, activities and attractions be calculated?
4. Will the negative costs to replace lost community facilities and amenities also be calculated?
5. Why hasn’t council budgeted any money to redevelop the Taupo¯ Museum and Art Gallery, the only credible component of council’s cultural precinct? Even to source cultural funds from central government requires council to stump up with a third of the estimated costs.
6. Why would council invest $15 million+ in an office building on a Crown-owned reserve, that it can’t sell should it become redundant, unlike CAB on council-owned land?
7. Council is not a commercial business. Pressure to locate CAB in Taupo¯ town centre’s commercial zone or Tongariro Domain is a folly at ratepayers’ expense because the Taupo¯ District Plan, Resource Management Act and Reserves Act don’t support it. I encourage council to make publicly available, immediately and unreservedly, the full scope of their consultants’ work-brief — and the consultants’ business case reports. Hopefully such transparency will answer concerns and add some credibility to council’s flaky CAB process to date. CHRISTINE MCELWEE (abridged)