Parks maintenance contract coming up for tender

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher
Waitaki's parks maintenance contact, awarded three years ago in a controversial fashion, is again coming up for tender.

Tomorrow, the Waitaki District Council's assets committee will move whether to recommend the full council approve a tender process for the maintenance contract, which is valued at between $1.9million and $2.2million a year and awarded on a three-year basis with two, two-year rights of renewal, amounting to a potential term of seven years.

In 2016 Downer won the contract previously held by Whitestone Contracting Ltd with a tender of $1,641,029.38 a year.

The changes saved ratepayers $450,000 a year for the duration of the contract - a three-year term with the option of a two-year rollover, which was not picked up by the council.

A storm of controversy followed when Downer struggled to keep up with its maintenance programme shortly after being awarded the contract.

Its performance drew strong criticism from Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher at the time and again in February this year, when he joined a chorus of ratepayers voicing their displeasure over the state of Oamaru's parks, reserves and cemeteries.

Mr Kircher said he expected the tender process to be competitive.

A concerted effort had been made to improve services, which had happened, he said.

"There's been a few things we've done - one is to look at the level of service within the contract. For the most part, we think they've [the levels of service] been adequate and we've actually increased the levels of service in some areas."

Those included Awamoa Park East, where grass was cut less frequently and at a higher level to create a "meadowy experience", which had not worked as hoped, and also the waterfront reserve area near Kakanui.

Factors such as experience, quality, preparedness and resources would determine who won the contract, he said.

Mr Kircher stopped short of endorsing Downer as the right candidate for the job when it initially won the contract.

"All of the information stacked up and the decision was made based on that information ... Hindsight is a wonderful thing."

He said when standards slipped, it put the council in a "very poor position from a public reputation point of view" and was an "unfair reflection" of the dedication of Downer staff, who he said were cast in a poor light because of an underprepared subcontractor.

Tenders will open on November 24 and close three months later. The contract will be awarded by the end of February and start on July 1.

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