5 Jun 2019

Napier residents sue city council over $41m pool complex

10:15 am on 5 June 2019

A group of Napier residents have filed High Court proceedings against the city council over a controversial decision to build a new $41 million pool complex.

Artists rendering of the proposed pool in Napier.

Artists rendering of the proposed pool in Napier. Photo: Supplied

The Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre, set up to challenge the decision, said the council failed to properly consult with the community over its decision to relocate the Napier Aquatic Centre from its current site in Onekawa to a new site on Prebensen Drive on the outskirts of the city.

It will be the largest construction project ever funded by the council.

But the council failed to follow its own public consultation policy when making its decision, Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre chairman Graham Sutherland told around 100 residents at the public meeting last night.

"We feel the council decision was based on flawed information and a lack of due process. The information the council released was misleading."

If the new pools were going to be built, the old ones shouldn't be demolished, said Mr Sutherland

"We want the council to recognise that the people of Napier should be listened to, and they're not being listened to."

A 7000-strong petition calling for the pools to remain at Onekawa, presented to the council in December, was ignored, said David Kamper from Hawke's Bay Poverty Bay Swimming Association.

"It was laughed off basically and treated as a bit of a joke and nothing became of it."

Many who signed the petition did so only after he informed them the pools would be demolished at Onekawa, he said.

"People thought there would be two pools."

Seven schools were within three kilometres of the Onekawa site, including several within walking distance, but just one school would be within three kilometres of the new site, Mr Kamper said.

The group's barrister Martin Williams, who successfully challenged the council's Easter trading policy in the High Court last year, said this was a similar case of the council failing to follow its own consultation rules.

"The process, the inadequate information, some misleading aspects of that information, the lack of key stakeholder engagement in the lead up to the long term plan... those kinds of things."

An injuction was also being sought to immediately halt the tender process for construction of the new site, he said.

"If the tender process goes too far down and the contract is let and construction work start that becomes a little bit difficult," Mr Williams said.

No one from the council attended last night's public meeting, despite all councillors being personally invited by the group.

The legal challenge was "very disappointing," Napier's Acting Mayor Faye White said in a statement.

"The proceedings threaten to undermine the democratic process to date. The council is taking advice about how to best protect the interests of the Council and its community, including from serious financial damage. It is important that there is accurate information out in the community and the Acting Mayor will be keeping the community informed as and when possible," she said.

The Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre are seeking to raise $50,000 to fund its legal challenge in the High Court. A Givealittle page set up has raised more than $7,000 so far.