Buying building sorts council overcrowding

The Waitaki District Council has bought the Bailie and Humphrey's building at 24 Thames St, next...
The Waitaki District Council has bought the Bailie and Humphrey's building at 24 Thames St, next to the council's headquarters, as a long-term solution to its current overcrowding issues. Photo: Hamish MacLean
The Waitaki District Council has bought the 1882 grocery store next door to its Thames St headquarters.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the purchase of the building at 24 Thames St, at the corner of Thames and Meek Sts, solved the current overcrowding at its headquarters for the "medium to long term".

"I think it's a great one for us strategically," Mr Kircher said.

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher
"We've had the situation of overcrowding in parts of our building here. It fits with our longer-term strategy about what we're going to do for premises.

"It's been bought with endowment funds, it's an investment in property, the return on the investment is sufficient that it is giving us a good return."

The current tenant - a stationery and goods store, Gold Fox Mega - had a lease the council would honour.

In March, the mayor and councillors balked at a council officer recommendation to move council meetings to the Oamaru Opera House to free up space for 17 staff at council headquarters, and last month, the council's parks and property teams moved into refurbished office space above the Italian fusion restaurant Cucina at the corner of Tees and Itchen Sts.

At the time, council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen said staff were likely to remain in the building for "a few years".

Mr Kircher said the council had leased the space above the restaurant "knowing that's not really a long-term fix".

"There's plenty of room next door," he said.

And though the council had taken a "step change" in staff numbers, the purchase was not indicative of a continually growing staff, Mr Kircher said.

"We're not wanting to take on more staff," he said.

"We've taken on more staff because of increases in workload, changes in legislation requiring us to do more, in some cases a desire to do more ... and part of the increase has been a change from using contractors and so on to actually have people on staff where we're getting much better value."

Last month, council people and culture group manager Lisa Baillie said that as part of the council's 2018-28 long term plan the council added two full-time equivalent positions in water, one full-time equivalent in roading, one full-time equivalent as a heritage adviser and one full-time equivalent as the economic development manager.

In May, she said, the council employed 132.7 full-time equivalent positions.

Council property manager Renee Julius said the council spent $350,000 on the building.

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