Sometimes ill-judged and rushed decisions can come back to haunt you. That's certainly the case with Mayor Sideshow Bob and the new Christchurch City Council offices.
Let's go back to 2007.
Just two days before postal voting closed in the October local body elections, the Christchurch City Council voted to spend over $100 million on new council offices.
It was effectively the last act of Mayor Garry Moore and his council.
The proposal was to buy the former post office building in the central city and extensively redevelop it in a joint venture with Nga Tahu Property.
Garry Moore railroaded the proposal through by ensuring that councillors were given just twelve hours notification that the massive building project would be on the agenda. Councillors were only provided details of the project at the meeting. (This was the same tactic that Sideshow used to steamroll through the Henderson bailout).
Despite knowing very little about the proposal and its implications, the councillors (most of whom got voted back on) voted to spend the money anyway – and they made the rotten decision away from the public gaze. Disgracefully, the meeting was closed to the public – the same public who would have to pay through the nose for the new council 'Palace'.
The final vote was 12-1, including the vote of the mayor-to-be - Sideshow Bob.
But, embarrassingly for Sideshow Bob, during the mayoral campaign he had said if he was voted mayor he would defer any decision on any new council building until after the election.
Sideshow tried to deny that he had said this but when The Press pointed out that he had said it publicly in a mayoral debate he quickly shut up
Bob finally settled on the lame excuse that a 'quick decision' had to be made because it was a 'use it or lose it' deal. This was pure nonsense because the Post Office building in Hereford Street had been empty for several years with its owners, Nga Tahu, unable to find anyone silly enough to take it off their hands.
Critics of this building project (including yours truly - so I am not being wise after the event) 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 patronising manner that we have all come to loathe, claimed critics were just raining on Christchurch’s parade, that the building would be a great asset, etc etc
Parker dismissed suggestions that it would have been more appropriate for the Christchurch City Council to build brand new and more modest offices rather than redevelop the former Post Office building.
MP Jim Anderton said it was not 'a good look' for the council to be operating in a costly building while people 'really in need of assistance' were not receiving adequate support.
In July 2008 Bob and his council cronies like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett voted to spend more money to add three further floors and which would cost the council (ie ratepayers) more than $700,000 in extra rent.
Just a short two weeks before this decision was made Sideshow told Newstalk ZB that there was 'no intention' of adding any new floors and 'he didn’t know where the story was coming from.' Guess who was telling porkies again?
But why were three new floors needed anyway? As I said in a 2008 post:
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.
In the end this bloated building has, so far, cost the long-suffering ratepayer some $117 million. The council has to pay $8.2 million annually to Nga Tahu to rent the Hereford St building for the next 24 years.
The Press has estimated that Christchurch ratepayers could potentially pay more than $1 billion to rent the property over the next century, when rent reviews and inflation are included.
But the building is still having money thrown at it because it has proved to be vulnerable to earthquakes.
It has, in theory, been 'open' since August last year. But, in practice, it has barely been operational.
The September quake knocked it out of action for a number of weeks and some $5 million was spent on repairs.
The February 22 quake saw 'The Palace' sustain more serious and extensive damage. The building is still closed and no announcement has been made about when it is likely to open again.
The irony is that the Christchurch City offices were supposed to be the headquarters for any major civil defence operation.
Civil Defence has been working out of the Christchurch Art Gallery which has sustained no quake damage. Civil Defence are likely to be still there until at least August.
Chrstchurch City Council staff should have been housed in new and more modest offices. Instead the people of Christchurch have been given a lame duck building that was not purposely built and that has proven to be woefully inadequate.