Museum strengthening and re-opening to proceed
Thursday, 17 August 2023
Council’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee has today voted in favour of proceeding with the strengthening and re-opening of Rotorua’s museum, subject to being satisfied about specified conditions being met.
The community was recently consulted on options for the museum due to cost escalations that had occurred since the project was committed to by the previous Council. Elected members needed to decide whether to proceed with the project.
Today the Committee voted in favour of the following motion, which was put on the table by Mayor Tania Tapsell, replacing staff recommendations that were included in a report to the Committee:
That the Committee will proceed with the strengthening of Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa and re-open it as a museum, subject to being satisfied that the following conditions have been met:
The Committee acknowledges that it would not be prudent for Council to apply additional funding beyond the $15.5m already committed for the project;
The Committee directs staff to negotiate a construction contract and project management approach that sufficiently de-risks the project and that there is a progressive approach to construction;
Existing and additional funding being confirmed which allows a future committee approval to enter into a construction contract for the awarding of each stage of the construction to the extent of funding available;
Staff to report back on other risk and cost mitigations and a process to manage the contract.
Mayor Tapsell said her motion aimed to provide more certainty that there was no “open cheque book” and aimed to de-risk the project as much as possible while still delivering what the community wanted, balanced with what it could afford.
Elected members were assured there would be ongoing reporting and decision-making on the project as work progressed.
Committee chair Karen Barker said getting to today’s decision had been a big journey and times were very different now from when the initial decision was made to go ahead with the project. Given the significance of the building and current challenges and the risks associated with the project, Council wanted to be as certain as possible about how to move forward and she supported doing everything possible now to minimise any risk to budgets being exceeded.
Following the previous Council’s commitment to restore and strengthen Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa, external funding agreements were entered into for:
$17m Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) (Kānoa);
$10m Rotorua Trust;
$6m Lotteries Grants Board (Significant Projects Fund);
$5m Manatū Taonga Ministry Culture and Heritage.
With a Council contribution of $15.5m, the total confirmed funding was $53.5m.
Following comprehensive testing, design and peer reviews, consenting and approaching the market, the total project cost (including costs to date, construction and contingency) had increased to $81.4m (a gap of $27.9m).
Given this cost increase, Council recently asked the community whether they wished to:
A. Continue to fully restore the building and reopen as a Museum (including an additional $9m of Council funding);
B. Stage the project (noting that the Museum would remain closed until the end of Stage 2);
C. Find an alternative location for the Museum and its services.
The potential for further external funding was dependent on Council deciding to proceed so additional external funding to close the gap could not be confirmed before a Council decision.
Community feedback was 85% in support of Option A (which included a proposed Council contribution of an additional $9m to help close the funding gap) and it was recommended to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee that the project proceed, with appropriate conditions to limit Council’s contribution, as follows:
Limit Council’s contribution to the existing $15.5m (approved in the 2018 and 2021 LTPs).
Require full external funding to fill the funding gap.
Preserve Council’s balance sheet to address any costs over $81.4m.
Directing staff to finalise and present for committee approval a construction contract that does not exceed actual external funding secured.
The construction contract must not over-commit Council funding.
Structuring the decision in this way, the committee was informed, would allow Council to unlock the additional external funding needed and ensure construction could begin, with the ability to release additional scope as full funding was secured.
The advice to elected members was that this was the most prudent way to retain current funding and enable Council to secure additional funding, while also ensuring that Council can limit any risk of a funding shortfall.
Go to p10 of the meeting agenda to read the full report on this matter.
See the presentation slides relating to this matter at the following link: PowerPoint Presentation (rotorualakescouncil.nz)
Go directly to this part of the meeting recording via THIS LINK