Just two days before the local body elections closed in October last year the Christchurch City Council voted to spend $103 million on new council offices.
What’s more councillors were given just twelve hours notification that the massive building project would be on the meeting agenda – and councillors were only provided details of the project at the meeting.
Despite this, the councillors (most of whom got voted back on) voted to spend the money – although they did it away from the public gaze. Disgracefully, the meeting was closed to the public – the same public who will have to pay for the building.
The final vote was 12-1, including the vote of the mayor-to-be Sideshow Bob Parker.
During the election campaign Bob had said if he were voted mayor he would defer any decision on any new council building until after the election.
Sideshow Bob later denied he ha said this until The Press pointed out that he had said exactly that at the mayoral debate. Sideshow Bob didn’t pursue the matter from this point on.
Critics of the project said the decision had been rushed, ratepayers had got a bum deal (the council don’t actually own the building and still have to pay rent) and the building could end up costing a whole lot more than what Sideshow Bob and his council cronies claimed.
Sideshow Bob, in his usual manner, claimed critics were just raining on Christchurch’s parade, that the building would be great asset and blah, blah, blah.
It’s been the usual huffin' and puffin’ from Sideshow Bob but yesterday the critics were proved right when Sideshow Bob and his council supporters voted to spend more money to add three further floors and which will cost the council (ie ratepayers) more than $700,000 in extra rent.
That's the extra rent - but how much will the extra floors add to the the cost of refurbishing the former Post Office building? Or is Sideshow Bob and his merry band of councillors claiming it can all be done within the budgeted $103 million? And, if they are, should we believe them?
After all, just a short two weeks ago Sideshow Bob told Newstalk ZB that there was no intention of adding any new floors and he didn’t know where the story was coming from.
Once again Sideshow Bob has been economical with the truth.
Why are they building these floors? Hey, the councillors couldn’t work out how many staff they had!
The initial decision was for a building that could house 1000 council staff. Now they’ve discovered they need a building that can actually house 1200 staff!
Such a blunder is the result of an unpopular decision that was rushed through to avoid public scrutiny and to give certain councillors, like Barry Corbett and Susan Wells for example, a better chance to get voted back into office.
Sideshow Bob though is again in public relations mode.
‘I can’t wait to take the staff out of this building and into decent accommodation’ he told The Press.
The Christchurch public though don’t share his enthusiasm –especially since they’ll be paying the bills.
And watch the resentment grow as the costs for this bureaucratic edifice continue to escalate.