Site blessing for shared Kaipara customer service centre

5 Jun 2020, 10:48 AM

Construction of a proposed $9M Kaipara complex expected to house up to 80 local authority staff from two different councils will be underway within weeks and is expected to generate work for more than 100 people in the Covid-19 recovery period.

The Hokianga Rd site of the proposed building was formally blessed by hapu Te Kuihi, Te Roroa and Te Uri o Hau Thursday, 04 June at a low-key event attended by about 30 people, including representatives from both the Northland Regional Council (NRC) and its Kaipara District Council (KDC) counterpart.

The complex – expected to open late next year – is being developed at 32 Hokianga Rd by the regional council and about a dozen of its operational field staff, associated vehicles and specialist equipment will eventually be based there. However, the district council (and about 65 of its staff, most in administrative roles) has already signed up as key tenant.

Regional council Chair Penny Smart and Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith.Regional council Chair Penny Smart and Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith pictured outside the Hokianga Rd building that will be demolished shortly to make way for a new complex expected to house up to 80 local authority staff from their two councils.

Penny Smart – the regional council’s chair (who is also the council’s Kaipara constituency representative) – says the NRC paid $465,000 for the 1235 square metre property in late 2017 and began planning in earnest for the development soon after.

“Given our two councils have a mutual ratepayer base and the district council’s current base nearby is no longer suitable for continued use without extensive and costly modification, it makes sense for us to share a single purpose-built modern site.”

The district council last year described a move to the proposed two-storey building as a ‘win-win’ as it was a sensible financial decision for its ratepayers to lease and repurpose, rather than take on ownership of a new build. It would also help maintain a presence for both councils near the Central Business District.

People will be able to do all their council business in one place. There will be a modern take on customer services, and opportunities for people to learn how to manage future interactions with council by themselves.

Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith says both councils collectively view the development as not only a good investment, but an important sign of ongoing confidence in Dargaville’s future, particularly as the North attempts to recover economically from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The building makes sense financially. As a tenant, we’ve been able to defer a large up-front cost, which has enabled us to keep rates down,” Dr Smith says.

“There are likely to be training opportunities and the chance to upskill for about 15 people in the local workforce.”

In recent years the site was home to local radio station Big River FM, but previous uses – and one of the additional reasons for the pre-works blessing by local tangata whenua – had included a doctor’s surgery and mortuary.

Demolition and construction work will begin July 2020 with the building expected to be commissioned in late 2021/early 2022.

The total project budget estimate is just over $9M (+ GST) which includes a contingency of $700,000 (+GST) as well as the original 2017 property purchase.

Chair Smart says the new facility will also incorporate a range of environmentally-friendly features, including solar power, LED lighting, charging for electric vehicles and plumbing designed to restrict unnecessary water use.

The regional council will use the ground floor for field staff operations including water testing, pest control operations and chemical storage, while the KDC will lease part of ground floor and all the top floor as its main administrative and services hub in the area.

For its part, the KDC says relocation would also enable its existing district council property to be redeveloped for other services.

Blessing the site.

A former doctor’s surgery and in later years home to a local radio station, this Hokianga Rd property was formally blessed by local tangata whenua and council Maori liaison staff before demolition work begins shortly to make way for a new shared local government building.