The unexpected announcement that completion of the Kerikeri wastewater project has been delayed for at least three months, and Council’s explanation for the delay, raises several questions.
According to an information page on the FNDC website, updated on July 4th this year, the project should “be fully operational by Christmas 2019”
In the July newsletter sent out to ratepayers along with rates demands, it was stated (without explanation) that Council’s aim was “to complete the plant by March 2020 and connect properties in the new area of benefit by July 2020.”
Following queries from members, Vision Kerikeri emailed the Council and asked for information as to the reasons for this delay, and what, if any, extra costs it will add to the project. To date we have had no reply to that email, but on August 7 the council issued a press release, stating that “the new treatment plant was to be built in a disused quarry, but another more suitable site was selected after initial plans were drawn up.” This has required a number of design modifications that required a pause in the construction schedule”.
Construction work on the project began over a year ago, so it is difficult to understand why any delays from a decision to relocate the project have only become apparent since July 4th this year.
The release went on to say “At the same time, we are competing with other significant construction projects around the country. Competition for qualified staff and other resources has contributed to delays.”
Surely responsibility for providing the expertise and other resources necessary to complete the project on deadline would lie with the lead contractor, not the Council as client? Any property developers whose projects rely on the timely completion of the wastewater plant, and who might suffer some financial loss due to the delay, are likely to put their hand up for compensation from Council (i.e. ratepayers).
The contracts signed by FNDC should be robust enough to ensure that any costs resulting from the delay are carried by the contractor. The Council’s rather opaque explanation raises the concern that ratepayers’ interests may not have been well protected; that they, rather than the contractor, are carrying the financial risk.