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Convention centre deal likely to have flouted law, says Cr Ritchie

Statement from Councillor Helene Ritchie
Most Wellingtonians were minimally consulted on the Wellington City Council’s Convention Centre deal and its costs. For example only two people in the Northern ward supported it and only one in Eastern. Also the obligatory legal requirements of the Local Government Act, relating to approvals for expenditure of public monies of such magnitude, were circumvented.

The deal is likely to have flouted the law – with no knowledge of the final cost, no approved final funding, and no knowledge of the impact of significant rates increases for residents and downtown businesses, small or large.

The mayor and councillors have given the Chief Executive carte blanche by delegating to him “authority … to approve all contractual documentation required, and to approve the final cost and all contractual matters related to the Hilton-private developer deal.”

This is in spite of the fact that firm costs are not known as the developer has yet to secure the land, funding and construction costs.

Such significant expenditure should never be retrospectively approved, especially and not only for this significant project causing significant rates increases and impacts on core services.

To date, there has been no formal budget process for this through the current long term or annual budget of the Council, and no evaluation of the impact of this expense on the council’s core operations – such as housing, libraries, community services, water service level, resilience and public safety, heritage buildings, asset and track maintenance.

This is a significant project with significant cost to the Council. The deal will if approved lock Council into significant rates increases, as a priority, for 20 years, with a right of renewal at 15 years for a maximum 15 more years

The proposed deal is highly questionable morally and legally.

Councillors Ritchie and Free proposed changes and amendments at last night’s meeting, to protect the interests of the Council and ratepayers, and to ensure that the elected Council approves the project only after final actual costs to Council are known. Unfortunately these changes were not accepted.