Information centre draws fire at forum

The lack of progress on the new Cromwell information centre emerged as a hot topic for discussion at a local body election forum in the town last night.

More than 100 people attended the forum, hosted by Cromwell service clubs, which was addressed by the three mayoral candidates for Central Otago - Malcolm Macpherson, Jeff Hill and Tony Lepper, together with Cromwell Community Board candidates, Otago Regional Council Dunstan constituency candidates and Central Otago's Southern District Health Board hopefuls.

Central Otago District councillors and sitting Cromwell board members responded to criticism about the delays in relocating the information centre from the Cromwell Mall to a more visible site on State Highway 8B.

The district council postponed the $738,000 project for a year in June.

Board member Helen Hucklebridge said it had been the council's decision, not the board's.

It was important for the revamp of the Mall to be tied in with the relocation of the centre, she said.

Although the revamp of the Mall had yet to be carried out, the board was "not actively involved" in the decision to defer the new information centre project.

Cr Gordon Stewart said Cromwell ratepayers were initially told they would face a $5 a year increase on their rates as a result of the new information centre.

As other factors resulting from the project came to light, such as the need to upgrade toilets in the Mall and the impact relocation of the centre would have on the town's museum, that estimated cost had risen.

"Cromwell ratepayers were then facing a 5% increase because of the project, not a $5 increase," he said.

Board chairman and district councillor Neil Gillespie said ratepayers were already concerned about rising rates.

Things like a new information centre were seen as a "luxury" in the current economic situation.

The project had been deferred so the other matters tied in with the shift could be investigated and that work was yet to be done.

Six candidates are standing for four places on the community board.

Candidate Nigel McKinlay said the Mall needed revitalising and a new information centre was needed to draw people into the town.

An election forum hosted by Central Otago Grey Power in Alexandra earlier in the day attracted an audience of about 40.

Mayoral candidates fielded questions on council staffing levels, water quality and metering and power prices.


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