Ombudsman considers Cromwell events centre complaint

by Kim Bowden - Mar 30, 2023

A Cromwell resident has taken a complaint about the Central Otago District Council's planning process for its multimillion-dollar events centre to the country's public sector watchdog.

Making way for the museum - should the war memorial move and has the council consulted widely enough to inform its decision? 

Followers of Cromwell's handful of community Facebook pages will already be familiar with David George's concerns regarding the proposed relocation of the Cromwell war memorial to make way for a new museum within the planned events centre.

It is Mr George's view the council has not consulted widely enough or early enough on its plans, especially in regards to the location and inclusion of the museum in its plans. 

A spokesperson for the Chief Ombudsman has confirmed a complaint related to the council and the events centre has been received.

"Because the Chief Ombudsman is required by law to carry out his inquiries in secret, we are unable to comment further.”

Speaking with Crux, Mr George has confirmed he is the complainant, and a letter outlining his concerns was sent to the Ombudsman's office in October, before the local government elections, when Mr George unsuccessfully stood for council.

Mr George has declined to share his letter with the public at this stage.

CODC chief executive Sanchia Jacobs says the council also received a copy of the letter and replied to Mr George addressing the concerns he raised last year. She is happy to share this correspondence with the permission of Mr George.

She says someone from the Ombudsman's office has contacted them to inquire as to whether the council had responded to Mr George, but the council has not received notification of an official enquiry, which would be standard procedure.

"They could still decide to do that."

Plans for the Cromwell Events Centre include a new museum in one wing (far right of this image), which will force the relocation of the town's war memorial (Image CODC/Jasmax).

She backs the council's community consultation to date, saying the events centre was a discussion topic of the last long-term plan process and the earlier Cromwell Masterplan process, plus different community groups were invited onto an early stakeholder advisory group.

"We have absolutely and appropriately consulted on it...and there'll be more discussion yet as we go through the stages."

However, there will always be people that continue to disagree with a decided-upon plan at the end of it all, she says.

Feedback from the community has not been "homogeneous or unanimous in terms of what people want", but there has been "a very loud voice saying 'get on and do something'," she says.

However, Mr George says he's wary of the get-on and get-it-done mandate being quoted.

"I think they're rushing ahead with undue haste over the siting of the museum...we're building something of major significance to the town...and it needs to be considered carefully.

"Yes, they should 'get on with it', but they should also take due diligence and care with the planning as well."

He's a member of some of the organisations that were invited to be on the stakeholder advisory group, and it isn't a given that the wider member bases of all those organisations were canvassed for their views and input, he says.

"I expected to be one of those many people in the community that were consulted with and had an opportunity for input, and I'm not just saying that casually...There was no opportunity for input...I feel quite aggrieved, actually, and that's why I went to the Ombudsman."

Read more: Plans for Cromwell's hall of the future come to life






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