Almost $500k spent and no facility yet

Adam Feeley.
Adam Feeley.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council has spent nearly half a million dollars on external consultants for the Wanaka Sports Facility before a sod has been turned.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times this week by council chief executive Adam Feeley show $484,258 has been spent on consultant work over the past five years for the sports complex, which is to be built at Wanaka's Three Parks subdivision.

However, Mr Feeley acknowledged the actual costs would be much higher, as the figures did not account for the ''many hours'' of council staff time invested in the project.

The consultant costs have covered engineering, legal, design and quantity surveying work, project management, assessment of facility options and planning and traffic assessments.

Mr Feeley said the mounting bill came down to ''democracy'', as some councillors and members of the public had called for more consideration of different scope and location options for the complex.

When he joined the council two years ago, those managing the project had ''what they thought'' was a definitive location, layout, functionality and facilities mix.

Calum MacLeod.
Calum MacLeod.
''That has changed with time. Certainly, there has been a council election since then, so some councillors want to revisit those costs, make sure that they're costs that have been well incurred and reflect what they think the community in Wanaka want.

''I can understand the desire to get the mix of facilities right and ... if that involves spending some additional money, so be it. What we'll endeavour to do is ensure that this work hopefully produces a more cost-effective solution for the sports facility.''

The original budget did not contemplate the amount of reworking of the design and functionality options, nor did it allow for the purchase of extra land - still under negotiation with Three Parks developer Allan Dippie.

''However, as the design scope may be changed, this could enable the additional initial costs to be incorporated within the final budget.''

The current cost estimate for the project is $15.6 million.

Of that, $8.2 million was scheduled for next year, Mr Feeley said.

Wanaka councillor Calum MacLeod - who has been vocal in his concerns about the facility's projected operating costs and the need for a scaled-back proposal - said the amount spent to date ''does seem a bit ludicrous''.

The process seemed to have been driven ''from a wants rather than a needs analysis'', although debate over the facility's location had been a ''huge sidetrack''.

He believed an early analysis of smaller sporting facilities operating successfully in other similar-sized towns might have produced a more cost-effective outcome.

In recent weeks, Cr MacLeod has raised the possibility of building a sports complex in partnership with Mount Aspiring College at the school site, rather than Three Parks.

His analysis of annual plan submissions relating to the sports complex showed 133 supported the facility as proposed, 122 did not support the current proposal and 116 specifically mentioned locating it next to the college.

''Even though it is not, at this stage, even suggested as an option.''

Mr Feeley said once the council made a decision on the facilities mix next month, the project would remain on track for opening in 2016, ''although there could be minor slippage in the completion date''.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz