Gisborne's Olympic Pool redevelopment 'frustrating at times', mayor says

6:38 pm on 29 April 2021

Gisborne District Council has announced a "new approach" to the build of its $46 million Olympic Pool Complex after facing higher costs, longer timeframes and a location change.

An original concept image of the 50-metre pool as part of the Olympic Pool Complex redevelopment project. Gisborne district councillors voted for “a change in scope and a new approach” to the complex after re-evaluating the design and costs.

An original concept image of the 50-metre pool as part of the Olympic Pool Complex redevelopment project. Photo: LDR / Supplied

Councillors voted for a "change in scope and a new approach" to the design and build of the pool complex at a public excluded meeting on 22 April.

The council released information about the decision on Tuesday.

Council chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the new approach would see the council appoint a single contractor to design and build the new indoor pool complex.

This would reduce the risk and help ensure the project came in on time and within budget.

The change in direction would also solve issues that had come to light during the design phase, Thatcher Swann said.

"The council has had to re-evaluate the pool complex design and costs, which is not unusual during the early phase of a project like this.

"For us, that has included the need to move the proposed location of the pool, higher costs for building products and unforeseen time delays due to Covid-19," she said.

The Olympic Pool redevelopment has a budget of $46.05m, however, councillors last month agreed to underwrite the cost of phase two of the project of up to $3.16m.

Phase two includes a wet-deck play area, a basketball half-court, an enhanced leisure pool, new hydroslide and landscaping.

It put a new price tag on the indoor and outdoor pool complex of up to $49.2m, of which central government is funding $40.35m through Crown Infrastructure Partners.

However, Thatcher Swann said the budget for the project was still $46m, despite a report released to Local Democracy Reporting saying that was just the cost of phase one.

"Councillors and our Crown partners were clear that the project could not go over budget," Thatcher Swann said.

"Having one supplier work on the whole project means more efficiencies and our ratepayers are protected.

"The pool complex might not be exactly what we had envisioned a year ago but we are committed to delivering a fantastic community asset at no extra cost to the ratepayers."

Thatcher Swann said the council would enter commercial negotiations with a preferred supplier.

"While we have used some of the budget on early designs and concept development, it is only a small percentage of the overall funding, and a lot of the work can be re-used.

"To meet the milestones in the project, the council was required to undertake project work at council expense.

"This means most of the $46 million is available for the pool project. In fact less than 1 percent of the budget has been used to date."

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz says the process has been “frustrating at times” but councillors remain excited about the future.

Rehette Stoltz said it is important to do due diligence and address any issues before the pool's construction begins. Photo: LDR

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the process had been "frustrating at times" but councillors remained excited about the future and having a pool complex that would be fantastic for the community.

"This is a government-funded project and with that comes commitments. This includes the need to stay within budget and start work as soon as possible.

"Working alongside tangata whenua and the sporting community will see this vision become a reality soon," she said.

"This is a very complex, multimillion-dollar project and it is important that we do due diligence properly and address any issues at the earliest point before pool construction begins.

"We are changing the scope but we will get a pool that our community can be proud of and can enjoy, while also staying within our budget."

It follows a group of watersports advocates who were lobbying to "future-proof" the pool disbanding this month after they said they were "kept in the dark" over the council's plans.

The group was "disappointed" to hear following a public-excluded meeting (on 18 March) that councillors had approved the moveable floor they were calling for, but only if the group secured $1.5m by 30 April.

Game-Changing Opportunity group spokeswoman Sonia Keepa last week said their members were "quite surprised" to find out they were obligated to secure $1.5m to fund "the inadequacies of the proposed pool design".

"With the amount of government support this project received, the group don't want to see money taken away from other critical projects in Tairāwhiti, including many other facilities due to be updated," she said.

The council expects to make decisions on a new contractor next week.

New designs and concepts will be delivered to the council in July, with work to begin soon after.

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