Library debate drags on

The Dunedin City Council will consider funding a temporary library in South Dunedin as a stopgap measure, after Mayor Dave Cull yesterday urged councillors to help an area ''neglected for decades''.

However, years of debate and delay over a larger, multimillion-dollar South Dunedin ''community complex'' - including a library - looks set to drag on for at least another year, to the ire of some city councillors.

The long-running debate over plans for a South Dunedin library resumed as councillors continued scrutinising the 2014-15 draft budget yesterday.

Councillors considered a staff report outlining five options for the development of a library complex in South Dunedin, ranging from doing nothing to a ''pop-up'' facility, joint venture project or a council-funded development.

Amid frustration at delays and warnings about the costs involved, councillors instructed staff to report back on the likely requirements and costs of a temporary ''shop-front'' library in South Dunedin.

Their findings would be presented at budget deliberations in May, allowing them to make decisions before signing off on the final budget the following month.

And, if approved, a temporary library could be operating in 2014-15, council arts and culture group manager Bernie Hawke told the meeting.

Council staff would also prepare a report evaluating options for a community complex, including a library, in time for next year's long-term plan budget hearings.

The permanent facility - drawing on an $8 million budget pencilled into council plans from 2017-18 - could, if built, make use of an existing, vacant heritage building in the area, councillors indicated.

The moves were subject to public consultation on the draft plan, beginning in March, but came only after fresh debate and frustration at yesterday's meeting.

While most councillors spoke favourably about the merits of a temporary library, Cr John Bezett was among those to express frustration at continuing delays to the wider library project.

Councillors had voted during last year's budget meetings to accelerate the pace of work, by asking for a report on options to be considered this year.

One year on, Cr Bezett said they were now being asked to endorse more work on options.

''It is just so frustrating. I almost get damn angry about the whole thing ... We have agreed to do it so many times - why don't we do it?''

Mr Cull accepted the delays were frustrating, as South Dunedin ''probably has been neglected for decades'' compared with other parts of the city.

The loss of Carisbrook - and the influx of people it brought to the area - had exacerbated that, and the council needed to look at what else it could do to help revitalise the area.

That should include a new community library complex, although more work was needed to determine exactly what form it should take, and yesterday's resolutions were ''a very good step forward'', he believed.

Cr Lee Vandervis questioned why the council had ignored South Dunedin's library needs for so long, while investing in other facilities, including a community library in Waikouaiti.

''For them [South Dunedin] not to have had a community centre or a library for so long is one of the great shames of this council.''

He criticised the idea of a temporary library as a ''delaying tactic'' and urged councillors to focus on cutting council staff costs, which would generate savings that could be used to accelerate the library project.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said delays to the project were not because the council did not support it, but because it had chosen to invest in other larger capital projects. She remained unconvinced the library complex would be affordable in the short term, but supported plans for the temporary shopfront library.

Mr Hawke said council staff had been working behind the scenes over the past year, including securing potential sites for a new library in the area.

The facility was ''always'' going to be more than ''a building with shelves of books and a few computers''. The council had budgeted $8 million for the project over two years, from 2017-18, but the figures were ''quite old now'' and needed to be revisited.

It was hoped the additional work, some form of shared development and the reuse of an existing heritage building could all help lower the cost, he said.


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