'Nonsense' out of Treasury

Letting an ''adolescent number cruncher'' at the Treasury run the ruler over the Dunedin courthouse strengthening proposal does not bode well for the project, Cr David Benson-Pope says.

''We know what sort of nonsense comes out of Treasury,'' he said. This week, it was revealed the Government's estimated cost of strengthening the mothballed courthouse had spiralled to more than $15million.

A 2012 estimate for the work was just $2.5million. The Dunedin City Council backed courthouse task force is not allowed to see the figures because of commercial considerations.

The cost of the project triggered a review by Treasury. Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams released the new figure this week, but refused to answer questions on it.

A spokeswoman refused to refer a suggestion to Ms Adams about how to improve the process. Cr Benson-Pope said the refusal to pass on the task force's idea to the minister contradicted an earlier undertaking to engage with the group.

''We've just got a little farce going on here.

''As someone who knows how ministerial offices work, a press secretary . . . never unilaterally says 'I will not pass that on to the minister'.''

Cr Benson-Pope was disappointed by the decision to shunt the proposal to the Treasury for a review.

''I've got even less confidence in the process if suddenly some adolescent number cruncher in Treasury is going to be making decisions about one of the most important historic buildings in the country,'' Cr Benson Pope said.

The Treasury focused on reducing public spending with little regard for culture and heritage. Cr Benson-Pope believed ''over zealous'' bureaucrats were overreacting to perceived earthquake risk, and said it was affecting other government occupied buildings in Dunedin as well.

The network of skilled heritage building people in Dunedin should be drawn into the project.

''We could sort this really cheaply if they would engage.

''Instead of that, they're playing this game at central government level of highly paid bureaucrats trying to show how sensible they are by keeping their staff and the public safe at huge public expense, and it's completely unnecessary.''

Cr Benson-Pope was saddened by a photograph in the Otago Daily Times this week of a broken window in the courthouse, saying unused buildings deteriorated quickly.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz


Developments this week

• Cost estimate blows out to $15million
• Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams refused to answer questions or engage with courthouse task force
• Petition gathers 2652 signatures
• Cost estimate disputed by members of Dunedin construction and heritage community
• Dunedin Courthouse Task Force considering next step in campaign 


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