Is anyone in control at Auckland Council?

As more and more time goes by ratepayers find out just how bad our council is and how profligate they are with ratepayers cash.

The cost of cladding repairs at Auckland Council’s Albert St headquarters has blown out from $4 million to an estimated $31m, according to a confidential report.

The huge bill for essential repairs to heavy granite slabs on the 31-storey building will be discussed by councillors behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Ratepayers have already paid $128.5m to buy and fit out the 25-year-old building, described as robust and structurally sound with good bones when it was bought in 2012.

About $4m was set aside for stonework issues picked up during due diligence. A report by the engineering firm GHD in November found there was no definitive evidence of imminent collapse, but clearly cause for concern and a high potential risk of a stone panel falling from height.  

The council is taking all reasonable steps to reduce or eliminate risk, including fencing areas around the facade, building a protected walkway and a working platform above the canopy.

Two sources yesterday confirmed the estimated $31m repair bill. Council staff would not confirm the figure.

The $27m increase in cost is the same figure senior council officers said would save ratepayers over 10 years moving from a mix of rented and owned CBD accommodation to the ASB Tower.

If they can’t manage the upgrade of their own building then how can we trust them to roll out the multi-billion-dollar rail loop?

They have got it wrong by a factor of eight; that is simply unacceptable.

The CEO has to be held to account…anyone who is signing off on this needs to be sacked. Any savings projected have now been blown away by poor project management.

The entire council needs decimation, and if things like this keep on appearing we may have to resort to the old Roman method of decimation to sharpen their minds.

Len Brown and his tame CEO have done such a great job…NOT!


– NZ Herald


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  • Not Clinically Insane

    Since you could do a flag referendum for the same price…. when will the luddites start jumping up and down about how that money could (in their world) ‘fix poverty’?

    • StreuthCobber

      Hahaha. Now you’ve got me thinking. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the granite tiles at all. Maybe what they really want is budget to replace the granite tiles with the worlds biggest green plant wall or solar panels as an ode to their eco principals and climate change paris conference. We shall see what the next press release brings in this sorry saga.

  • Nige.

    “The council is taking all reasonable steps…..”

    There’s nothing reasonable about a $27M blowout.

    What a load of spin.

    • Even worse when the $ 27 million blowout is on a $4 million project

      What do we expect when they have spent nearly 1 billion on a computer system ?

    • XCIA

      That’s council speak for “they can’t handle the truth” so keep lying about it.

  • StreuthCobber

    The report being confidential is unacepptable. . Lets see the costs breakdowns for the project so we can see why it’s gone from 4$ to $31.

    • Consultants

    • Boss Hogg

      The $31M is still only a revised estimate. There will be more, this is just the start of the softening up process. The next blow out will be referenced back to the now accepted $31M so it will not seem so outrageous. My guess is for the total to be around $50M. What other aspects of the building were under estimated during the failed “Due Diligence”? This is what the council did with the computer system blow out.

      • Dog Breath

        I do project management and I would be embarrassed to have my name on this fiasco. Clearly the first number was a pure quest with no rigour for the sole purpose of having something to get the project started.
        Normally a project begins with concept designs and options from which estimates for options are derived using quality surveyors. As these are concepts it is normal to have a 30% contingency added to the estimate because if the cost risk. This is followed up with chosen preliminary plans and specifications and these are subjected to costing by the quality surveyors with a smaller contingency because of the reduced risk. Final design and specifications and tender documentation is produced and further scrutiny by quality surveyors so that a tender price expectation is known. This now goes to tender where a fixed contract price is determined and if the quality surveyors have done their job properly the tender price is within the contingency amounts. If you follow the process properly there should never be cost surprises.
        What has happened at the Council indicates to me they either have not followed the design process properly or they have some really poor quality survey advice (internally or externally) or worse they were plucking optimistic numbers out of the sky and budgeting using that, if either is true someone needs an a__se kick.
        The 4 million number should never have been promoted as a cost as clearly it was a nonsense number.

        • stop the ACC waste

          I understand Davis Langdon (Quantity Surveyors) did a cost report for council. Make no mistake – the owners of the building (Brookfields) did very, very well on that sale. ACPL were a soft target. The Davis Langdon report and the terms of reference for it from ACPL would make very interesting reading. On face value it would appear Davis Langdon have done ratepayers no favours at all. Strange, as Davis Langdon have a very good global reputation.

          • biscuit barrel

            Even Penny Bright was onto somethings back when the place was bought
            “Any untoward conflicts of interest between those who bought this property and those from whom this property was bought?”

            vendors: Brookfield Property Trust
            Buyer: Auckland City Properties, who had a board here
            One name stands out

        • one for the road

          Just goes to show how much nonsense goes on at the council, both officers and counsellors!!

        • sooty

          Based on their performance and pet projects over the past few years, Auckland Council don’t care about costs. Let alone being accountable to a project plan with deliverables.

  • rua kenana

    The Sydney Opera House was initially estimated to cost $7million. Its final cost was about $102million.
    Auckland Council may well be in good company, but that doesn’t excuse the total ineptitude of the Mayor and CEO in having no ability to understand and control the costs. They never even bothered to learn from the mistakes of others. Sydney at least gained an interesting asset. Auckland has gained very little at all.

  • stop the ACC waste

    Every deal at Auckland Council is dirty. In the Albert St building case the buyer (Auckland Council Properties Ltd) and the seller (Brookfields) – had a common board member – Mr Peter Wall. You can’t make this stuff up!! Mr Wall ceased being a director of ACPL in July 2015. Auckland Council is a $5billion annual pot of cash – with councillors and staff giving every crook in town unfettered access to it. Councillor Dick Quax is head of the ACC Tenders and Procurement Committee. His experience??? He has been a director of Valley Road Limited, Beach Soccer Limited and Sand Soccer Limited. Hardly the background one would expect to run a $5billion spending budget!! But hey – he supports Len and the extra salary for being the head of a committee is his reward from Len.
    It is absolutely inevitable that with no oversight from the council, that council staff and the crooks in Auckland will be involved in multiple scams/crooked contracts/nepotism with ACC money. The difficulty in uncovering them is that ACC councillors and staff will fight tooth and nail to keep things under wraps.
    Good on Chris Darby for breaking ranks, and opening up this can of worms.

    • Kitschinsync

      Yeah, i was disgusted when I read a few months ago that Peter Wall appeared to be working for the seller and the buyer on this building sale, kinda made me think that the extent of the facade repairs was swept under the carpet. Seller gets out clean and the buyer i.e… the long suffering auckland ratepayer wallet gets shafted again.

      • biscuit barrel

        Would have been all declared.

        • Kitschinsync

          You would hope so, however I cannot see how being declared makes it alright.It just smells bad, would you get away with working for vendor and purchaser in the private sector?.

    • one for the road

      Can’t be that crooked, the auditor general doesn’t seem to be worried!!

    • sooty

      IMO it’s unusual for Chris Derby to be open about anything, unless he benefits somehow.

  • Superman

    How does this stop? I’m worried that the next council elections will only produce more of the same.

    • H. Upmann

      Don’t be worried, be very afraid.

  • iancrewzen

    Auckland problem – is simple, the Councillors are Muppets being played by staff (puppet masters), they are told what to say and think and of course only provided with what they need to know when they need to know to rubber stamp what is required by staff.
    Obviously staff find it useful to multiply, it is what they do, they get paid more for more morons being under them, the bigger the empire the more pay, more status, fatter ego … where is the downside and why would they do otherwise.
    The only downside is for ratepayers, the bills just keep coming, the “STUPID” factors multiply, and silence prevails.
    The usual plan of course is that anything bad then rush to secret meeting mode, that’s where a really good meeting happens, to devise the press statement to smooze over the mess and move on …

    • biscuit barrel

      valid point

      What we need is an independent american style council ” inspector general’ who reports only to Council , not the CEO.
      In NZ context it would probably called Ombudsman, but this would be soley for Auckland council, and reasonably funded by ratepayers.
      Would be allowed full internal access to records, employees matters, executives, the lot.
      You might get say 3 or 4 complaints about one employee but have 20 about another person, so thats the one thats looked into. To see that their decisions are in line with policy and not some arbitrary whim – too often thats where the issues arise. And the names of complainers arent revealed.

      • one for the road

        Auditor general has this in her scope..

  • localnews

    As Sir Humphrey would say, in the private sector you get judged on the size of your profit. In the public sector on the size of your department.
    I suspect he may be the role model.

  • dennis

    This is chicken feed compared to the computer blow out. Time for the CEO to fall on his sword.

  • Hard1

    “In many ways the dud HQ is a symbol of all that is wrong with Auckland Council. It was an unsound investment bought on the advice of stupid, or worse knowingly corrupt, Council bureaucrats by politicians who didn’t question the advice or ask themselves whether it was a good use of ratepayers money. Now they are spending even more of our money literally to save face.

    Councillors and bureaucrats only thought of themselves and the supposed enhanced status this symbol would bring. It houses a luxury apartment for the mayor’s private use away from prying eyes that saw far too much of his shenanigans in the Ngati Whatua room. Everything about the purchase smacked of venality, waste of ratepayers money and self-serving incompetence. In other words, it is a suitable monument for six years of the Brown mayoralty.”

    So, what is wrong with the slabs? “A report by the engineering firm GHD in November found there was no definitive evidence of imminent collapse, but clearly cause for concern and a high potential risk of a stone panel falling from height.”

    Still, where does the blame lie? “While the formal risk profile for the building’s cladding issues, which is based on global risk assessment standards, is ‘moderate’ and with a low likelihood of anything falling, we are firmly of the opinion that any risk whatsoever triggers an essential health and safety response from us, with appropriate actions being taken.” (This logic would apply to any building anywhere). Except the Council must appear to be squeaky clean.
    Remediation of the external Granite building facades, clearly noting the SIGNIFICANT ISSUE published 2 years earlier, with the stone cladding, starting July 2014 by Fletchers 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. But now we have a dangerous building. After remedial work.
    Contrast that statement with “Due diligence when the council purchased the building for its headquarters in 2012, and further investigative work since, has confirmed a SIGNIFICANT ISSUE with the 25-year-old building’s stone cladding, that needs to be addressed. ” 2 years before Fletchers spent $44,000,000 on the building.
    Were the risks now being addressed at this stage, noticed by the experts at Fletchers during their extensive renovation. Indeed, did Fletchers improve the safety of the cladding at all, or make it more dangerous?
    Who certified the installation of the slabs in the first place. Why should the Council pay for what is obviously faulty installation?.

  • Keyser Soze

    Seriously, what are the criteria for Council having a closed meeting? Surely they can’t just exclude the public when they’re embarrassed over their own competence?