Venues strategy needed before Town Hall decision made, says Chamber
Wellington City Council needs to decide exactly where the Town Hall fits into its venues strategy before committing ratepayers to the massive cost of strengthening it, says Wellington Chamber of Commerce.
"This project is turning into a massive cost, and ratepayers need to know if it’s going to be money well spent," says Chief Executive John Milford.
"How it fits into the strategy, alongside the Michael Fowler Centre, the St James, and the new convention centre will determine that - if there’s some sort of decent return on the investment - or if it can be better spent elsewhere.
"We know that the $112 million projected spend announced yesterday will not be the final number. It’s already climbed from an original $46 million, so who knows where it could end up.
"It would be easy to simply say ‘go ahead’, because it is a great building, but ratepayers do need to see what sort of return and benefit they might get from such a big investment.
"Spending that sort of money to re-develop a facility that will have a pretty narrow use does raise questions.
"Yes, we’ll be retaining a heritage building and that will make us feel good. But what’s going to be the full use and what’s the business case stacked alongside the other venues. Clarity around that will help determine the return on investment and the Town Hall’s value to the city.
"It’s also a matter of priorities. Will this be money well spent when we have other infrastructure, such as water and roading, whose resilience must be the priority.
"We live in an earthquake zone and we can’t preserve everything. We have to make hard choices, and this is one of them. The public purse stretches only so far."