WITH funding applications for its proposed library redevelopment unsuccessful, it’s back to the drawing board for Opotiki District Council.
The council is again asking for community feedback on the best way forward for the district library with the options being to return to the current dedicated library; undertake a small-scale redevelopment; or continue with the proposed full-scale redevelopment.
The redevelopment has been consulted on multiple times in the past 10 years, in long-term and annual plan cycles with the preference being for a full-scale development.
The proposed new building has already been dubbed Te Tahuhu o Te Rangi, the name gifted by kaumatua Te Riaki Amoamo in January 2016.
A series of pop-up shops, community feedback opportunities, expert reports and feasibility studies resulted in architectural concepts, which have been used for funding applications and resource consent.
A mould issue in the old library has forced its temporary relocation to smaller, leased premises and council chief executive Aileen Lawrie said this had brought the matter to the forefront of the council’s and community’s minds.
“Opotiki should be very proud of our small library – a bricks and mortar building has become so much more,” she said.
“It is home to a huge range of activities and events and is a real hub for our community.
“Much of the credit for that should go to our wonderful library team who are just a buzz of activity for the town,” Ms Lawrie said.
She said Te Tahuhu o Te Rangi was the council’s ideal of a new community hub – a space for the new research and technology centre and all the services a modern library provided.
“We recognised at the time that our goal wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t something a small council like Opotiki could afford on its own. We worked hard and the community really got behind us through art tours, bequests and donations.”
She said the council had been doing quite a lot of work in the background but, at the end of the day, had not been able to access the external funding it needed to get the project off the ground.
“We have tried various sources and there are some we are still working with, but grant funding just isn’t able to cover even close to the full cost of the build,” she said.
A paper was presented at a council meeting this month to discuss the next steps, including a recommendation that to proceed, the council would need to agree to complete the project through an external loan.
“Council did a feasibility study in 2017/18, we invited 25 local stakeholders to go through the process with us,” Ms Lawries.
“From that group, there was almost unanimous comment that the current library was too small and there was strong support for expansion.
“But at the same time, the group was concerned with putting costs on to the community to pay and that external funding wasn’t forthcoming. It was a bit of a conundrum,” she said,
The council paper outlined three options – return to the current dedicated library, small-scale redevelopment or full-scale redevelopment.
The council’s preferred option continues to be the full-scale redevelopment, as it provides for a greatly improved facility with expanded space.
This extra space means better provision for old and new services including a lounge, study and meeting rooms, research and technology areas, as well as significantly enhanced digital connectivity.
This option has been costed to include a generous contingency and allowance for ground conditions.
It also relies on reasonable assumptions around external funding.
“Together we resolved to bring the matter back to the public to discuss further,” Ms Lawrie said.
“We prefer the third option – full replacement and upgrade but there are some significant implications for the financial repercussions of that over the medium and long terms.
“So, I encourage all Opotiki residents to look deeper into the matter – the options and finances are currently up on the website for people to consider and feedback will be really valuable,” she said.
Feedback can be given online through odc.govt.nz/libraryproject on the three options, or a feedback form can be picked up from the council offices, library, or the i-SITE.