Stadium budget help was declined

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
The Dunedin City Council declined an offer of specialist help to keep its Forsyth Barr Stadium budget on track, years before the cost jumped by millions of dollars, it has been confirmed.

The decision, revealed in an Audit New Zealand report from 2010, has been criticised by Mayor Dave Cull, who said it was ''a function of the attitude of the management and the executive at the time''.

Former council chief executive Jim Harland defends the decision, saying the council's oversight was felt at the time to be ''appropriate''.

The offer was detailed in the Audit NZ annual report to the council, dated December 2010, which covered the 12-month period to June 30 that year.

It noted the council's management had been offered help from Audit NZ's specialist assurance services team to ensure its major capital projects - including the stadium - remained on track.

That would have included tracking the council's projects ''against milestones and budgets'', Audit NZ said.

''[DCC] management did not consider this was necessary and believe they have robust processes in place,'' it said.

Two years later, a PricewaterhouseCoopers review lifted the stadium's construction cost from $198 million to $224.4 million, including an $8.4 million overspend in stadium project costs.

The following year, a list of peripheral extras to the stadium project - released by the council - lifted the final figure again, to as high as $266.4 million, depending on which were included.

Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times the ''management attitude'' at the time appeared to be ''that they were doing things the right way, and that they didn't need any help with it''.

The stadium project's arrangements had been shown to be ''unnecessarily'' complicated, and Audit NZ's offer ''would have been a good idea'', Mr Cull said.

''I think we're probably quite lucky it didn't blow out more.''

Mr Harland rejected that last week, saying all council capital projects had their own project management arrangements, reporting lines and oversight, including from the elected arm, which was felt to be ''appropriate''.

''Those processes were robust and still are robust at a project level. That's why when we would have looked at that we would have felt that each of them was managed enough.''


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