Today in the open part of the Finance & Performance meeting when supposedly "absolutely all the information was on the table" I asked why Fletcher Construction's recent involvement in the remediation of 135 Albert Street's "stone facade" has never been tabled in reports and presentations to councillors?
Yet on their own website, Fletcher Construction says their 2014 refit work included "Remediation of the external building facades required swinging stage platforms to be suspended from the roof on level 31, and a cantilevered scaffold was erected around the building’s perimeter 29 levels above Albert, Federal and Wellesley Streets to enable the façade remediation. Undertaking this work without risk to the construction team or the public required meticulous planning.
" Why was this claimed work then excluded in all reports to councillors? Did Fletcher's have the job to fix the cladding? Did they report any further problems that needed to be remedied? Was their work reviewed? Today no one could answer. To think less than two years on and we're now having to re-scaffold the top stories at huge cost to ratepayers seems "completely ridiculous" I said.
Why also does Fletcher Construction claim the the total refit budget was $44m but Auckland Council claims it was $24.5m?
It would seem Councillors have been kept in the dark over a lot of things, including the original purchase of the building. There is a suspicion that top Council bureaucrats were working hand in glove with ASB, who owned the building, and who probably knew it was a liability at the time of purchase. Back in 2011 Waterfront Auckland (a Council CCO) was trying to find a cornerstone tenant for its Wynyard Quarter development. They locked in ASB. It makes you wonder if a secret deal was done whereby ASB offloaded what they must have known was a dog of a building onto Council in order to establish Wynyard Quarter.
Did Council fail to do due diligence in 2012 because they did not want to jeopardise the Wynyard Quarter deal? ASB now leases its Wynyard Quarter premises from Kiwi Income Property Trust, presumably having learned its lesson over owning rather than leasing a tower built in the 1990s that turned out to be a dog. The Herald reports:
Ratepayers have already paid more than $128.5 million to buy and fit out the 25-year-old building, described as robust and structurally sound with good bones when it was bought in 2012.
Council general manager finance and property Kevin Ramsay said the first due diligence review by Mott MacDonald in 2012, costing $90,000, was a largely visual inspection of stonework at the podium level and some imaging of the fixings behind the stone.
The review identified some cladding concerns for which $4.2 million was set aside, Mr Ramsay said.
The cost of undertaking a full invasive due diligence report for the whole building, Mr Ramsay said, would have been prohibitive.
Whoever failed to order a full due diligence report should lose their job immediately. If that decision was Mr Ramsey’s then he’s got to go.