Whangarei District Council Mayor Sheryl Mai wants the $60 million that had been earmarked for the Oruku Landing Multi Events Centre near the Town Basin to be spent fixing the Northland Base Hospital.
“We really appreciate the offer of investment in our District. I urge the Government to spend this money in Whangārei, on the hospital that needs it more now than at any other time in the past.
“Years of underinvestment have left us with a hospital where sewage runs down the insides of walls. And the hospital may face huge pressure as we open up our borders.”
She was speaking after Council concluded months of investigations, discussions and consultation on the Oruku Landing Conference and Multi Events Centre by voting to abandon the project.
The vote meant we did not amend our Long Term Plan to include up to $70 million estimated as its share of the cost of the build of the conference and multi-events centre. This meant forgoing the additional $60 million which was to have come from the Government under its Covid-19 Economic Recovery funding for shovel-ready projects.
Mayor Sheryl Mai said some in the community would be very disappointed by the decision, however it was the decision Council had come to after considering a huge amount of information.
“Council, consultants, government and council staff were working under serious time-pressure to ensure we had enough information to give this project the consideration it deserved.
“Northland Development Corporation took the idea to Government with the best intentions and with inspired vision. Many in the community supported that vision and could see the potential of the project.
“When I first heard about this project I thought about the construction and hospitality sectors – entertainment, conferences, shows, concerts, all the things that it would bring to our district for our people to enjoy. I saw the opportunities for accommodation, the opportunity to stimulate the economy.
“But then I heard about poo running down the insides of the walls of the hospital and questioned our priorities, as did our community through their submissions. Times have changed. Underinvestment and hardship that have been simmering in some areas of central government funded social infrastructure in the North are erupting. That calls for us to reconsider our priorities.
“Our community has told us what their priorities are. More than 5000 people made submissions on this proposal, that’s one of, if not the highest response rates we have ever had on a public consultation.
“For every person who supported the proposal, four were against. Their arguments were researched, thoughtful and reminded us of the priorities our community has spoken of clearly in our consultations over recent years.
“Climate change, limited incomes, the housing crisis, projects that people have campaigned on through the LTP for decades that are still waiting. Not only that, we are living under the spectre of Covid’s on-going effects and dealing with disrupted supply chains and escalating costs.
“We already have good places to come together - the Northland Events Centre, Mackay Stadium and Hihiaua Cultural Centre. The development at Whangarei Boys High School will soon be complete. For decades we have been planning to redevelop Forum North and build Stage Two of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre. These projects have been in our Long Term Plan for years, at the request of our community.”
“Despite Council’s decision, there was universal praise for the efforts and intentions of the Northland Development Corporation who took this idea to government, for Government for its support of the project, for all who have worked tirelessly on the Oruku vision.”
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