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Art gallery fix up wait continues

Art gallery fix up wait continues
The $1.9m of work scheduled for the Art Gallery and Heritage Centre for an upgrade of the air-conditioning remains on hold because an agreement between the council and the neighbours has not been reached. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/ASHBURTON GUARDIAN.

The neighbours have said no, and now an almost $2 million fix to Ashburton's Art Gallery and Heritage Centre is on hold.

The Ashburton District Council needs to complete a $1.9m upgrade of air-conditioning and building work to stabilise the interior environment, but resource consent complications currently stand in the way, chief executive Hamish Riach said.

“The current ventilation system was identified as nearing the end of its lifespan 18 months ago.

“The solution to this issue involves the need for a variation of the initial resource consent for the building.”

At the time the building was opened in 2015, a 10-year site agreement was entered into between the council and specified neighbouring residential properties, Riach said.

It requires all parties to agree to a variation of the original consent.

They have been unable to get that agreement to complete the work, Riach said.

A spokesperson for the neighbours said the disagreement centres on concerns around increased noise, as the council is proposing to relocate the air conditioning from the roof to the ground and install a bigger unit.

“No one is opposed to the work, the opposition is to where they propose to locate it,” the spokesperson said.

“The ongoing noise of the new system is more likely to be intrusive.”

Without a resolution, the council will maintain the current ventilation system until it is able to apply for a consent variation next year, Riach said.

“After the site agreement lapses in 2025, council will be able to directly work through the Resource Management Act process for any future variations to the resource consent.”

That application process will again include the neighbours as affected parties.

The standoff is the latest chapter in a drama-filled history of the community asset.

The project came with a budget blowout, ending up with a final bill of $10.3m against the tender price of $6.3m.

It was plagued with delays, legal battles, and cost escalations, and initially opened without any art on display as the air-conditioning unit could not provide the conditions needed to preserve the collection.

An independent review of the build process identified the failure to undertake a feasibility study that would have identified timelines, costs, and likely risks.

The building's issues involved formal investigations and litigation over responsibility for the building's failure.

After the list of issues was identified in 2018, the council paid $65,000 for detailed designs on the work needed to finally fix the building's problems and ended up budgeting $2.5m for repair work in the 2019/20 financial year.

That included the $1.9m for installation of new heating and ventilation equipment that has been carried over since, while the council awaits agreement to upgrade the community facility, and will now wait for a new RMA process to be able to proceed.

By Jonthan Leask