Whakatane District Council

COUNCIL’S Civic Centre will be getting a modern makeover and will be brought up to code for use as an emergency centre.

Whakatane District Council must earthquake-proof it’s Commerce Street office to bring it in line with requirements for use as an Emergency Operation Centre.

At the same time, staff are taking the opportunity to modernise the work environment, upgrade toilets and showers and renew the public reception area.

The work is expected to cost $3,060,679.

The seismic strengthening work will involve the installation of underfloor catcher frames and steel corbels, existing ceilings and lights will be removed and replaced with seismically-approved and braced ceiling grid and lighter tiles as well as seismically-restrained LED light units.

As part of this work ducting for a new air conditioning system will also be installed.
General manger community services Mike Naude told councillors at last week’s project and services committee meeting that an opportunity to modernise the building, built in 1989, had been identified as part of this work.

Council staff were consulted as part of the process and raised concerns about temperatures inside the building during winter and summer and requested the work environment be “modernised” and that toilets and showers be upgraded.

They also asked for more “refreshment and utility” stations and storage for bicycles.

“The building is over 30 years old, and we can see that in the remnants of the bathrooms,” Mr Naude said.

“Many staff exercise over lunch time, and currently there is only one male and one female shower available for roughly 165 staff.

“Staff have also requested there be more collaborative working spaces as well as a quiet space office as working in an open-plan office can be tiresome.”

As part of the modernisation there will be additional meeting rooms provided, impromptu meeting spaces and small team and individual work booths.

Mr Naude said the duel-entrances from Commerce Street and Margaret Mahy Square were a health and safety issue as many members of the public would enter from the square and continue into the building without signing in at the customer services area.

The entrances will be reconfigured to prevent this as part of this work.

Mayor Tony Bonne raised a concern that the cost of running the new air conditioning would “blow out” council’s budget, as it had previously at Te Koputu.

Mr Naude replied that he estimated the cost of running the new air conditioning would be $20,000 each year.

This is after the desk fans and heaters currently at many staff members’ desks are removed.

Councillor Scott Jarrett said he agreed with the modernisation works as happier staff would be more productive for the council.

The report provided to councillors states that a key focus of the work is for the civic centre to, “recognise and reflect the culture and history of the district and our connection with the river”.

To achieve this design element, sculptor and cultural designer Jamie Boynton has been appointed to the project team to guide and direct architects in this aspect of the modernisation.

While the work is taking place, staff may be relocated to council-owned buildings in the central business district while the council chambers may be converted into temporary office space with meetings then needed to be held off-site.

Council updated its customer services section in 2006, converted the old library into office accommodation in 2013 and upgraded the staffroom in 2015. There has also been interior and exterior painting done, carpet replaced and other minor improvements.