New $13 million price hike for Whangārei’s Oruku Landing conference and events centre

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Whangārei’s controversial Oruku Landing conference and events centre is going to cost $13 million dollars more than originally stated, a new report shows.

An artist's impression of the proposed Oruku Landing development on Whangārei's Town Basin waterside.

An artist’s impression of the proposed Oruku Landing development on Whangārei’s Town Basin waterside. Photo: Supplied / Northern Advocate

The cost of building the proposed centre and surrounds has gone up by $13.15 million over initially-provided Whangārei District Council (WDC) figures. It will now cost $136m – up from $123m when first announced at the start of public consultation on October 18.

This means a potential 23 percent increase in WDC’s proposed ratepayer-funded $57m towards the project has now grown to $70m – towards the $136m centre and surrounding infrastructure project.

This means WDC rates would potentially increase by seven per cent next year – up from an initial six per cent forecast on 18 October – if the council decides to fund the conference centre, which is part of the wider, private, $250m Oruku Landing hotel, apartment and shopping development by Northland Development Corporation.

Oruku Landing’s conference and events centre build cost has gone from $80m to $87.45m. Surrounding publicly-funded infrastructure increases include its boardwalk going up by $4.4m and seawall by $3.15m.

The new cost increases mean WDC will have to get additional submission feedback from those who have already sent in more than 1700 project submissions. These have been based on the 18 October costings.

The council received its 146-page WDC-commissioned Beca Oruku Landing CEC preliminary report on 4 November.

WDC chief executive Rob Forlong said the cost increases could be explained by the council moving from the conceptual design stage to the preliminary design stage. That enabled costings to be firmed up – as was usual in a project’s evolution.

The proposal had gone out for the 18 October consultation start with concept design estimates, rather than more usual – and more definite – preliminary design estimates. This had been so WDC could meet Government project funding uptake deadlines, he said.

On 18 October, Oruku Landing’s originally $123m conference centre and surrounding infrastructure project was to be funded $57m from WDC ratepayers, $6m from Northland Regional Council (NRC) ratepayers and $60m from the government.

Forlong said the council was now looking at how the extra cost was dealt with.

He would not be drawn on whether the latest increase meant the project still proceeded or was canned. That was a decision for councillors on 26 November, after submissions had been taken into account, he said.

Options included, not proceeding with the project; WDC ratepayers footing the extra $13.15m; asking the government to increase its $60m project contribution; NRC increasing its ratepayer funding; removing the project’s proposed $2.6m Oruku Landing ferry terminal; removing the proposed $18-$20m footbridge from Oruku Landing across the Hātea River.

But any changes needed to be done in consultation with the government. Its $60m funding requires the bridge’s inclusion, with that full contribution amount potentially reduced correspondingly should the bridge not proceed.

WDC’s sign-up, if it goes ahead, commits ratepayers to underwriting project cost overruns and to paying for the centre’s $5m annual operating costs.

Local Democracy Reporting asked NRC chief executive Malcolm Nicolson if the regional council plans to increase its funding contribution to the centre, in the wake of the new report, but has yet to hear back.

Three public meetings about the proposed centre are being held this week. About 50 people were expected at the first meeting, at Ruakākā Recreation Centre last night (Monday).

The next meeting is at Whangārei’s Forum North Exhibition Hall on 9 November (6.30pm-8.30pm) and Hikurangi War Memorial Hall November 11 (6.30pm-8.30pm).

Attendance registration is required for these meetings for Covid-19 risk management and places are filling fast.

Public submissions can be made via WDC’s website until November 18.

The submission form includes the option for submitters to say whether they want the conference and events centre canned or continued with.

More information, including the new report, can be found here.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.

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