Council meets to decide referendum

Posted: 23/02/15

On Wednesday 25th February 2015 Whangarei District Councillors will vote to adopt recommendations on the format of the upcoming referendum to decide the fate of the old Harbour Board building.

In November 2014 Whangarei District Council met to choose the best proposal for the redevelopment of the old Harbour Board building. Instead of picking the winning project – the Hundertwasser & Wairau Maori Art Centre – they decided on a public referendum between (1) HWMAC (2) a maritime museum and (3) demolition.

PNT firmly believes that the referendum must now proceed as per the WDC recommendations and that any attempt by any Councillors to change the details of the recommendation could be seen as an attempt to subvert the proper public process.

If Deloitte are curtailed from finishing their independent appraisal of the two project and Council are unable to issue the voting public those findings, a fair and democratic referendum cannot take place. If the Council proceeds to referendum without all the options they originally agreed to, the public will loose the opportunity to decide the fate of the building.

WDC staff have recommend to Council that they adopt the following process for the referendum:

  • referendum process starts on 9 March (28 days for roll inspection, 40 days for preparation of material & mail out, 21 day voting period)
  • voting papers mailed by mid May
  • voting finished by 5 June
  • final announcement 9 June
  • First Past the Post voting system
  • Postal ballots
  • all Whangarei residents on the Electoral Role and all non-resident ratepayers are entitled to vote
  • winning option has two years to raise funds (if funds not raised, results of referendum lapse)

More about the referendum recommendations

The referendum date is later than that first proposed as councillors were not aware of the legislative timeline when moving for a March referendum, and because they had hoped the Deloitte’s analysis would be finished in February.

The Deloittes analysis is crucial to the referendum as it will provide voters with a comparison of construction costs, operating costs and visitor numbers for the three options. Their work will be peer-reviewed by another consultancy and they will seek expert advice on construction costs.

The June referendum will be the first time the public has been able to vote on the fate of the old NRC building. There have been at least three polls surveying attitudes to the old HAC proposal, with conflicting results, but none included more than 1000 people. No polls have been taken to gauge public response to the revised community-led HWMAC proposal, which includes a vastly different funding model to the previous Council project.

The Harbourside project was selected as the an option for the referendum after gaining second place in a robust assessment process led by 20-20 Committee Chairman Phil Halse. The Harbourside proposal originally tabled has altered considerably, with the new project excluding the Whangarei Art Museum and CHART. It is this new proposal now being evaluated by Deloitte.

Council is responsible for providing the public with information about the proposals at the time they release the referendum voting papers.

Come to the meeting

All supporters are invited to attend the WDC meeting in Council Chambers at Forum North at 10am Wednesday 25th February. Come along and make sure Council upholds its own process!