30 Sep 2019

Napier pool: Residents' court case against council decision begins

11:53 am on 30 September 2019

A High Court hearing to determine whether Napier City Council properly consulted the public over its plans to build a new pool complex is starting in Wellington this morning.

Artists rendering of the proposed pool in Napier.

An artist's rendering of the proposed pool in Napier. Photo: Supplied

The judicial review was being brought by a group of residents, The Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre Society, who opposed the demolition of the existing facility to make way for a brand new $41 million pool complex on Prebensen Drive on the outskirts of Napier.

The pool project has been fraught with troubles since it was first mooted in 2017 with four options put on the table: renovating the existing Onekawa pool, building a new 25 metre pool, or building a new 50 metre pool elsewhere.

In April 2018 the council proposed the Onekawa facility be demolished and a new 25-metre pool complex be built at Prebensen Drive.

At the time, the council said it would cost too much to develop Onekawa pool and contamination at the site, which sat on an old landfill, also presented problems.

Napier residents were spilt over whether to spent $41m on a new pool or $20m on expanding the old pool to 50 metres, but the Prebensen Drive site was approved at a council meeting in June 2018.

After concerns were raised by residents, six councillors spoke out about the council's "flawed" consultation process and called for it the project to back for more consultation.

But at an extraordinary council meeting called to debate the issue in December, acting mayor Faye White's casting vote got the Prebensen Drive proposal over the line.

The Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre Society said the council did not follow its own consultation process and it was hoping the judicial review would force the council to re-consult with ratepayers.

The hearing at the High Court in Wellington was set down for three days. The Friends of Onekawa Aquatic Centre Society lawyer Martin Williams said a decision was not likely until March.

The council had agreed to halt all work on the project until the local body elections on 12 October.

As of 3 September, Napier City Council had spent $224,000 defending the legal challenge and it expected further costs as it prepared for the court case.