Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Effort to resolve War Memorial Hall’s management fails

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The Howick Local Board has held its final business meeting prior to this year’s local elections. Pictured from left are members Bo Burns, Bruce Kendall, David Collings, Bob Wichman, chairperson Adele White, Mike Turinsky, Peter Young, deputy chair John Spiller, and Katrina Bungard. Photo supplied

A last-minute attempt to resolve the ongoing saga of management of the Howick War Memorial Hall before this year’s local elections has failed.

The Picton Street building was closed along with most Auckland Council facilities in the first half of 2020 when New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown.

In late 2021 council staff recommended the Howick Local Board appoint the Howick Village Association (HVA) as the preferred applicant to manage it.

Since then the recommendation has been before the board three times but each time it’s failed to receive sufficient support to pass.

The board first received a recommendation from council staff to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant to manage the building at its business meeting in December last year.

When the item arose, board member David Collings moved a successful amendment giving approval to council officers to talk to multiple groups about working together for the benefit of the Howick community.

The recommendation was made to the board again in April, but that time Collings moved a successful alternative for the board to defer the decision pending a workshop with prospective applicants.

On the most recent previous occasion in July no board member moved or seconded the item so no vote was held.

The issue was not on the board’s agenda for its recent final meeting of the current term, but Collings said he wanted to move an extraordinary item so the board could resolve it.

He said the board had $85,000 in funding from the council to set a group up and have that money “trickle down” to the community through the organisation appointed to manage the building.

That funding would enable a group to manage the building without charging for its use, he said.

“I understand council officers propose we implement charges for this and other facilities.

“We’ve got $85,000 we can utilise and if we wait for council officers to come back … they’ve already told us what we have to do.

“It sits in limbo back with the council as a standard facility for rental and we will have to bring charges [to use it].”

Collings said with the local elections looming, it’s possible some current board members may not be re-elected.

“This could be my last meeting so for me it’s urgent.

“I don’t want to risk it so a new board, and there could be one or two changes, won’t know the full picture and could go along with [council] advice and bring in charges.”

Collings’ motion was seconded by board member Bob Wichman and opened for questions.

Member Mike Turinsky asked Collings to expand on his reasons for saying the issue should be addressed with urgency.

“For me it’s a process and protocol issue so I want to make sure the urgency is well established,” Turinsky said.

Collings said he believed the current board was best placed to make the decision.

“We’ve had advice from council staff to bring in charges and I’m very against that.

“We’ve got $85,000 from this council budget and every dollar we don’t spend for our residents in the Howick ward goes back to the CBD.

“I think it would be the wrong thing to let that money go.”

Member Bo Burns asked Collings if he was happy for the board to make a decision on the building’s management without giving applicants a chance to address the board that night.

Collings told Burns she was “missing the point”.

“This board is the best placed to make the decision.

“If many of us don’t get back in we’re starting with a new board.

“We’ve got the opportunity to resolve this.”

Collings’ motion was then put to a vote.

Voting in favour were Collings, Wichman, Katrina Bungard, and Bruce Kendall.

Opposing it were Burns, deputy chair John Spiller, Peter Young, and chairperson Adele White, with Turinsky abstaining.

With the vote tied at four each, White exercised her chairperson’s casting vote against, and the motion was lost.

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