$10m site: where the buck stops

The Otago Regional Council's decade-long search for new headquarters has so far cost $10 million.

Several sites have been considered for the council's new home, but have all been rejected.

Figures show it spent $9,715,000 on land purchases, site assessments and temporary office space.

It is still searching for a new site for the building.

Cr Graeme Bell said he could ``definitely'' understand the frustration and concerns of ratepayers.

He imagined past councillors would regret the cost becoming so high, he said.

Cr Michael Laws said he opposed the construction of a new headquarters from day one.

``By definition, any public monies spent trying to construct one would appear wasted public monies to me.''

He has suggested Port Otago's commercial development arm refurbish or construct a building for the new headquarters.

He has also advocated it be located nearer to the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes districts, where much of the council's work is based.

Cr Michael Deaker said much of the spending was investment rather than cost.

However, councillors at the time of the Birch St site investigation ``perhaps went further than they should have'' with the project, before realising it would be too expensive.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said he did not regret the previous costs of the search.

With the Birch St and Stafford St sites it had two valuable pieces of land to sell when it needed to secure a new headquarters site.

The Birch St site had increased in value since it was purchased, he said.

The council discussed the search in a private session yesterday.

The only update was councillors asked the chief executive to act ``with haste'', Mr Woodhead said.

In 2007 the council purchased land on Kitchener and Birch Sts for $3.35 million.

Another $3.8 million was spent on architectural plans, engineering and planning for the site.

This bid was eventually dropped.

In 2013 the council created temporary chambers in the car park of its Stafford St site.

In 2016 it began investigating other options for a new headquarters, eventually focusing on a Dunedin City Council-owned car park in Dowling St.

This investigation cost $450,000, but the bid was dropped in July.

In August, temporary chambers opened at Philip Laing House, the cost of which was $1.192 million, including fit-out, consultant fee, plus equipment and furniture.

The figures come from Dunedin man Chris Shaw who requested them under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Mr Shaw said it was time the council was held accountable for the spending.



Let’s not forget that the building itself is$25 million. Add that number too.
An obscenity, a stupendous waste of monies better spent on Otago’s environment.
And around 80% of the council’s work is done nowhere near Dunedin.
Call it what it is: a vanity project.

The ORC has become way too top heavy and have lost sight of their responsibilities. Dealing with them is a bloody nightmare, it's like dealing with two different organisations. The guys on the ground are great and do a fantastic job under the circumstances, but the bureaucratic muppets at the top are a waste of time. They only engage with you if you hound them to death and then they'll say anything to get rid of you, only to do nothing , until six months or a year later and you hound them again. We've been at them 8 years and still no meaningful results, I'm sure others have had similar and even longer experiences.

Woodhead needs to go, I am now of the opinion he is rotten to the core. He is supposed to be one of our local rep's, but has never shown any interest in talking with us. His only involvement has been to try and block others from talking. At the public meetings he is quick to say "user pays", which is fine. He is a big vocal campaigner for a new multi-million dollar ORC HQ. But under his user pays system, will the cost be divided by the hundred or so staff that'll be using it?
A new CEO was a good start, but much more culling needs to happen if anything is to change.

I can't add any more to the above two comments except I'm angry and frustrated that our rates are being squandered by the ORC and the DCC. We can write as many letters as we like but they're not going to listen. Cannot us ratepayers form our own committee to take them to task; by legal means if necessary?