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Budget blowout blues

Budget blowout blues

Ashburton’s new library and civic centre is facing a $5.6 million budget blowout, but ratepayers won’t have to pay any more.

That’s the assurance from Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown, who’s confirmed a 10 per cent budget overrun has been forecast for the $56.75 million library, Te Pātaka o kā Tuhituhi, and civic centre, Te Waharoa a Hine Paaka.

“It won’t cost the ratepayers any more as we have the $20 million of (Government) shovel-ready money, exactly for this purpose,’’ Brown said.

“To make sure the project progressed and to insulate against any Covid-related impacts and cost increases.”

Shovel-ready is a term to show that planning is complete for a project, approval permits are in place, and labourers can get to work with sufficient funding secured.

The original library and civic centre project budget, set after public consultation in 2019, was $51.6m. But the council then secured a $20m Government shovel-ready grant in 2020, with an additional $5m contingency added in 2021 because of the uncertainties around the impacts of Covid-19.

Securing the Government shovel-ready funding meant that the council’s input figure dropped from $56.75m to $36.75m, with essentially a $20m contingency added to what it had planned to fund.

“The ratepayer will be paying no more than what we consulted on when we started the project,” Brown stressed.

“It won’t affect the ratepayer at all, and we are just thankful we have that shovel-ready contribution from the Government.”

The only way it would cost more is if the budget ballooned past $71m for a project originally scheduled for completion in October 2022 but now set to open by the end of this year.

The new building should be finished at the same time as the renovation of Baring Square East.

“We’re very disappointed that the cost has risen, but anyone undertaking a build in this current climate has experienced similar difficulties,” Brown said.

  • By Jonathan Leask