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Council move to new building delayed - again

Council move to new building delayed - again
Over 100 admin staff were expecting to move into Te Whare Whakatere, Ashburton's new library and civic centre, on Monday, but testing showed an issues with the top floor air conditioning system. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Yet another delay for Ashburton's big ticket new library and civic centre has been described as "frustrating and disappointing".

Ashburton District Council staff were scheduled to start working in Te Whare Whakatere from Monday, but issues with air conditioning on the top floor have resulted in their move being delayed.

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing to have this delay for our complete occupation of Te Whare Whakatere, but we’ve made the call to postpone the move by admin staff until at least January 22,” council chief executive Hamish Riach said.

"We can’t confirm the new timeline yet."

More than 100 administrative staff were expecting to move into the new building on Monday, until testing late last week revealed the top floor air conditioning was not working.

“The air conditioning issue is confined to the top floor and the contractor is already busy fixing it.

“The issue only became apparent when the system was going through commissioning, and we are ensuring that the cost of getting it right will not be passed on to ratepayers.

“It is disappointing, but we’d rather have everything working as it is intended before moving in.”

Chief executive Hamish Riach says the building is track for the library to open in the ground floor and first floor as planned from January 22. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

A December 18 opening date was announced in October, but construction delays pushed the library opening back until January 22, while council staff were still set to relocate on Monday.

Public-facing admin staff will still be operating from the council administration building at Baring Square West.

The rest of the staff, including regulatory, finance, roading, infrastructure assets, human resources, communications and property teams, will continue to work remotely, as they have for the past three weeks, Riach said.

The top floor delay will not impact the library’s revised move.

“The library’s move is on track for the team to be working from the ground floor and first floor as planned from January 22.”

The library will close for three weeks from January 1 while its resources are moved to the new building.

The project has been besieged by delays since construction began in January 2021, driven by the impacts of the Covid pandemic on the supply chain and workforce.

Delays coupled with inflationary pressures will result in the project's final cost being over the budgeted $56.6 million.

The council is no stranger to new buildings having air conditioning issues.

The Art Gallery and Heritage Centre opened in 2015, overdue and over budget, without any art on display because the air-conditioning unit could not provide the conditions needed to preserve the collection.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the 87-year-old Cavendish Chambers building on Havelock Street is progressing.

Once the rubble is cleared the site will become a car park for visitors to Te Whare Whakatere, Ashburton’s new library and civic centre, and is anticipated to be completed by the end of January.

By Jonathan Leask