Auckland Council should not be in charge of public money

An Auckland mayoral candidate’s calling for the council to be held to account over a report of a multi-million-dollar building blowout.

The New Zealand Herald says repairs to the council’s new Albert St headquarters could now cost around $31 million – a huge leap from the original projection of $4 million.

Victoria Crone says it’s unacceptable to dump ratepayers with such a large increase.

“The council have to take accountability for this, they have purchased the building. As part of purchasing the building absolutely you have to do due diligence to make sure you know what you’re buying, and it looks like that process hasn’t been done properly.”

Auckland mayoral candidate Mark Thomas says the council doesn’t help itself “when it tries to bury these debates in private”, and calls for the meeting to be made public.

“There is no reason why a discussion on why this has happened and what the next steps are can’t be had in public, and that’s what I have asked for.

“The public has a right to know what other options are being considered before ratepayers fork out 25 percent more again than the original purchase price.”

Mr Thomas says council officers should be considering how robust the advice about the state of the building is, a range of repair options and contribution council can seek from the previous owner of the building.

Councillors will discuss the building repairs at a closed meeting on Tuesday.

We’re not talking about councillors and mayors here. We’re talking about the people actually running the council and spending public money.

They repeatedly prove that they can not be trusted to spend money wisely. They act like there is always more of that rates money to use, and there is absolutely no sign of fiscal prudence.

The Auckland Council itself needs a short and sharp shock that follows a clean-out. Some people are responsible for this. They should no longer have a job.

But, as per usual, this will be dealt with in secrecy, a ‘report’ may be commissioned that won’t be shared with the public and it will all come to nothing.

Auckland deserves a mayor and a council who are going to protect the ratepayers instead of council careers.


– Newshub


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  • Really?

    Everything the Auckland Council touches or promises turns into a disaster:
    1) IT projects – $1 billion on Sweet F All.
    2) Super City – huge savings promised but none eventuate and costs rise unbelievably and core council functions dropped.
    3) Move buildings to save money – but massive cost blow outs and all potential savings gone, before the move has happened and before the full true costs are known.

  • Win

    This is only one example of complete ineptitude over council employee handling / spending of public funds. I am aware of others.

  • sheppy

    It’s incredible that the organisation responsible for inspecting and enforcing building standards can’t even inspect its own building properly before its purchased!
    The level of incompetence and disregard for spending other peoples money at Auckland Council is beyond belief and even more incredulous when you consider that the Mayor was apparently employed as a lawyer in the past – perhaps they weren’t involved with selling houses, and advising their clients to get a building inspection done before purchase!

    • Win

      Good point you make Sheppy re building inspections. However, Auckland Council only use the planning rules and regulations & rma to stop you and me joe public from making alterations, etc. The rules simply don’t apply to them.

    • Mr_Blobby

      I think you miss the point.

      It is all about the money, fees etc

      There is no Accountability, no one to be held responsible when something goes wrong.

      So what is the point.

      We wanted to do a simply shop fit out. The building already had resource consent but It was going to cost $10,000 in plans, fees, inspections etc for a building consent.

      It was nearly impossible to find out what we could do before we needed to have a building consent.

  • StreuthCobber

    I agree with Mark on this – the documentation and the conversation should be held in public. We deserve to know the actions taken by our elected memebers so we can make an informed vote later this year.

    • StreuthCobber

      I like the campaign Mark Thomas is running he talks straight and is not afraid to take a stand on a difficult issue (eg the Homeless issues). But I’m also liking Vic Crone (although I’d like a bit more detail) But I really wish the two of them would make a deal – one for Mayor one for Deputy. And work together so we can have a fresh team in Auckland Council.

  • Mr_Blobby

    All very good to say how about some accountability.

    But at the end of the day, there is never any cost/benefit analysis done it is all on a cost recovery basis.

    So they wanted a shiny new building for the new mega Council, first step abandon the old building and claim it would cost to much to bring up to code. In reality less than the new building.

    Then buy a newer flasher building from an owner who is aware of the problems and sees the opportunity to pass it onto some one else.

    Because the problems are very obvious. You commission a report at great expense to understate the problem and justify the purchase.

    Then when every thing is signed and there is no going back announce the problem.

    Deal with the public outcry by passing the issue onto the elected representatives. Who are powerless to do anything about it and leave them to find a way to make the problem go away.

    And make the problem go away they will, like good little Muppets, then it is business as usual.

    So how exactly are we going to have transparency and accountability.

    • Raibert

      So very true, in private business the muppets and the council officers involved in the decision to purchase this building would be shown the door. However because it’s the council and local government officers they won’t even get a slap on the wrist. These behaviours seem to be common throughout NZ and all Local Government NZ wants is more money to play with.
      It’s way past time that the whole mess that is Auckland City was revisited by central Government and the now obvious flaws with it fixed. But most likely nothing will be done as central government would not want to admit to having made such a great blunder.
      No other area in NZ would accept a set up like Auckland, so why do Aucklanders have to suffer this?

  • Quinton Hogg

    The Albert street headquarters have been and are an enormous cost to rate payers.
    The purchase price, the remediation cost and also i understand the fit-out cost which was mindblowing.
    i don’t know the actual cost but i am reliably informed it is eye watering.

    • Hard1

      Auckland Council Workplace Strategy, 135 Albert Street. Fletchers.
      Type:CommunityCost:$44 million. Started:Jul 2014. Completed:Nov 2014 Client:Auckland Council

      Still no word on what the real problem with Fletchers failure to properly address the Granite cladding is. It is logically be the anchorage points. Are they inadequate, or rusting?
      Fletchers remediated the external building facades required swinging stage platforms to be suspended from the roof on level 31, and a cantilevered scaffold was erected around the building’s perimeter 29 levels above Albert, Federal and Wellesley Streets to enable the façade remediation. Undertaking this work without risk to the construction team or the public required meticulous planning.
      End result : Failure to remediate the core issues. What a waste of time and money by Fletchers, whose job was surely to fix non-standard fixing design; insufficient, missing or loose bolts & pins, inadequate or missing packing, which meant the pins were supporting the weight of the stones, some deflection in the fixings, support rails & stone, corrosion in bolts & support rails, and some stone had no mechanical fixing, and was adhered using epoxy with an uncertain lifecycle.

      Plenty of warning was given. Two years earlier a report identified serious deficiencies with the cladding.

      The council bought the former ASB Bank Centre from Brookfield Multiplex for $104 million in 2012. It’s since spent $25 million directly on fitting the premises out and another $28 million on additional works, all budgeted for.

      The additional works have included building plant & lighting system upgrades (LED introduced), and $4.2 million was set aside to deal with KNOWN ISSUES with the building façade.

      Mr Ramsay said nothing in the due diligence investigations in 2012 or in subsequent examination identified structural stability issues or weathertightness concerns, and there was “a low likelihood” of anything falling from the building: “The issue is around the stonework cladding and how it is fixed to the building.”

      Invasive examination by Mott MacDonald in 2013, including removal of some stone at the podium level, identified quality issues in relation to the fixings, including:
      non-standard fixing design
      insufficient, missing or loose bolts & pins
      inadequate or missing packing, which meant the pins were supporting the weight of the stones
      some deflection in the fixings, support rails & stone
      corrosion in bolts & support rails, and
      some stone had no mechanical fixing, and was adhered using epoxy with an uncertain lifecycle.

      Then in 2014 fFetcher’s remedial work clearly failed to mitigate the above issues. So why pay them. Sue them for malpractice instead.

  • cows4me

    Perhaps the people of Auckland can get together and donate a new sign for this monstrosity. I wonder if they would get it?

  • Hard1

    Guess what. All the Granite must be removed from the building at Ratepayers expense. There is, despite Council waffling and ducking on the issue, no alternative.

    “Due diligence inspections carried out by Mott MacDonald before the council bought the former ASB Centre in 2012 included a largely visual inspection of the stonework at the podium level, which was accessible, and some Boroscope imaging of the fixings behind the stone, but didn’t allow for the removal of stone to inspect the fixings.

    Subsequent invasive examination by Mott MacDonald in 2013, including removal of some stone at the podium level, identified quality issues in relation to the fixings, including:
    non-standard fixing design
    insufficient, missing or loose bolts & pinsinadequate or missing packing, which meant the pins were supporting the weight of the stones
    some deflection in the fixings, support rails & stone
    corrosion in bolts & support rails, and
    some stone had no mechanical fixing, and was adhered using epoxy with an uncertain lifecycle.
    Mott MacDonald & specialist stonework firm European Stone Masons carried out more investigation up the tower columns in 2014, including removal of some sample stone on 4 columns. Mr O’Brien & Mr Hollis say on some columns the fixings appeared reasonably sound, while others shared similar issues to those previously observed.

    That investigation report expressed concern that stone could be displaced in extreme winds, especially from the tower columns. Further investigation of façade problems last year resulted in a recommendation to remove stone completely from all 8 “ladder” & “isolated” columns to repair the fixings.

    The report also referred to some stonework, particularly at the top of the building and in & around the foyer area, which was only held in place using an epoxy adhesion system. The report questioned the strength & viability of this system and suggested that stone should also be removed & refixed.

    Last November, the council engaged façade engineers from GHD to review findings and propose remedial actions: “Their report concluded that there was reason for concern, but the extent of the problem could not be finally ascertained without the removal of all of the stone from the building. The report concluded that further intrusive works would be a very costly & labour-intensive operation. The report commented that there may not be a significant difference between the cost of these further investigative works and complete replacement of the stone façade panel, due to the required access equipment….

    “The review engineers believed, from the investigations carried out so far, there was a high potential risk of a stone panel falling from height. They acknowledged that the probability of a stone falling is not known, but that the impact if this did happen would create a significant health & safety risk to users of the building & the general public below.”

    Apart from doing nothing – not an option – GHD said the council could undertake more comprehensive intrusive investigations, which would be expensive; repair & replace the existing stone cladding; or repair & replace with a lightweight alternative.

    What private company would fire ahead and purchase a building without doing thorough due diligence on the integrity of the cladding.? Surely the installers are still alive.

    • Santa Fe fan

      I assume that based on Mott MacDonald’s findings the purchase price offered by Council was reduced to reflect the likely costs of the repairs. As the ‘original’ cost was $4-m this presumably was the reduction council factored in. If this is the figure it seems very light for re-clad works to a multi storey block in the centre of town. Mind you depends what the brief for the investigation to Mott’s was originally?

  • twittertit

    Why does the council own the building anyway?

    Surely a council should only own assets that provide a return to the ratepayers? I.e. The roads, storm water network, etc.

    If they needed a building, they should have just leased it.

    Edit: typo

    • one for the road

      This council own many assets that having nothing to do with running their core business – they own a port, part of the airport, still own social housing, etc – they should sell the lot, restructure their business and get back to their core business..

      • MaryLou

        I have no problem with investments like airport and port, provided returns etc are properly managed and overseen, but social housing and building – absolutely not.

  • pirate vs ninja

    It’s not just Auckland council management. This sort of wasteful expenditure occurs in every part of the country. In Tauranga, council management discovered ‘toxic’ mould in its offices. Rather, I should say, after a couple of goes, they found an inspector willing to describe the mould as toxic and therefore warranting a complete rebuild of flash new offices! The expert opinions that the mould presented absolutely no risk to staff seem to have disappeared.

  • Oh Please

    So the blow-out is more than the flag referendum? Anyone from Labour want to complain about that?

  • Richard

    Haha, bureaucrats taking responsibility for their risk taking and incompetence? Not likely.

    When the Telecom (Spark) XT network fell over, three senior execs were gone within three months. Not middle managers but layer two execs in mobile and technology operations.

    That’s the way it should be – personal accountability for the risks you take with other people’s money. Unless ‘other people’ are taxpayers not shareholders.

  • Brendon Taylor

    Is there an independent body that can routinely investigate this sort of mismanagement & other dodgy dealings on the part of local government? I remember a number of years back the serious fraud office investigated the Taupo District Council, the Mayor Then wasn’t even aware of it until the investigators had been on site for about a week. Anyway there appears to be a need in NZ for some sort of anti corruption and/or mismanagement of public funds commission, like an extension to the serious fraud office reach or capabilities.