The design focus is on providing a welcoming, inclusive and easily accessible customer experience, in a building that strongly reflects our cultural identity and heritage.
Our vision is to create a fit-for-purpose building with sustainable design and construction, delivering a more efficient service for our District.
You can view a gallery of photos of the Civic Centre project by following the link below.
1. Where can I find preliminary designs of the new civic building?
Preliminary designs of the new civic building are available to view in a Council news article, as well as on our gallery page:
Council news article: Preliminary designs of Whangārei's new civic building
Civic Centre Project gallery page: Civic Centre Project image gallery
The planning process to date has been focussed on developing a detailed specification of what we want in the building based on current and future needs, as well as investigating things to do with the site itself. This includes detailed geotechnical studies so we can design and cost the foundations, changes to planning regulations that impact things like the building height and carpark requirements, how the building footprint we need will impact on things like setback from the Waiarohia Stream and stormwater management, how the new building could work with existing ones like the Library to create a civic precinct, traffic management issues and environmental/sustainability options.
Based on all of this we have been able to work out a high level budget for the size, scope and standard of the building we need.
All of this information has now been given to the architects, who are working with our Hapu partners to finalise elements of the preliminary designs.
This process is similar to the one used for a new house e.g. before you go to an architect, draughtsman or building company it is standard practice to work out how many bedrooms you need and what your budget is. That way you save time and money by not having designs developed for something you can’t afford.
2. Why do we need a new civic building?
To put it simply, we outgrew the current facility about 20 years ago and we have been struggling to get by since then.
Our District has continued to grow over the last 20 years, and while we've tried to keep our staff numbers down, in order to adequately serve our community, Council staff numbers have grown too. With population growth expected to continue we need to ensure we have a central place for our community and to support staff in delivering outcomes for our District.
While Forum North has served us well, it is far too small for the staff we need for a district our size, meaning we have had to rent more space and spread our staff across separate locations – which is really inefficient and costly to the ratepayer.
We looked at extending and refurbishing the existing building, but because of its design (and the cost to bring it up to current building and earthquake standards) this was going to be the most expensive option.
3. What happens in a civic centre?
A civic centre is a hub for all local government-related activities.
There will be a customer service centre, Council Chambers and offices for our District's staff – the things that are in every local government building around the world.
Whangārei's civic centre will be where we draw up plans and strategies to support future growth and to make Whangārei a desirable place to live, play and work.
Essentially, a civic centre is where everything that needs to be done in order for our city to function in a positive and productive way gets done.
We want to make the new civic building as welcoming and accessible as budget allows, so our whole community finds it easy to interact with Council staff – whether that's talking to a Councillor, making enquiries about your property or our services, applying to do something or attending a meeting.
4. How much is the project costing, and what does that include?
The budget that was allowed for in the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan was $38 million for a building with a footprint of 5000 sqm. At a full Council meeting on 27 February 2020, Council moved to increase the size to 7000 sqm. The new total budget for the completed project (including construction, fit out, land purchase and all professional services and compliance activities) is $48 million.
The change in scope will future-proof the construction for high projected growth of Whangarei District (revealed in the latest Census data), ensuring we have a civic building that is fit for purpose now and on in to the future. The new scope also allows for the Northland Transportation Alliance to be housed within the Whangarei District Council civic space.
We recognise this is a huge amount of money. This budget is to cover construction and base fitout costs of this project, not just the physical building shell. This is why the amount might seem higher in comparison to other projects.
This budget includes:
- $3.4 million land purchase from Returned and Services Association (RSA),
- architectural design and building plans,
- resource consents and building permits,
- access and parking,
- internal fit-out and
- building construction.
We will be totally transparent about the cost of this new community asset – which is why we have grouped all costs together in one place – rather than break it into smaller bits.
We're one of the largest organisations in Whangārei, so putting us all into one home is a big project!
5. Where will the new civic centre be built?
We have looked at many sites over the years (more than 20!), and after great deliberation the Returned and Services Association (RSA) site has shown to be the best location.
This site will allow us to bring together a number of things in one core civic precinct for Whangārei District.
Whether you walk to town, cycle along the shared pathway, catch a bus or park your car at Forum North, you will be able to go to the library, attend a show in the Capitaine Bougainville Theatre or go to the new civic building, as they are all grouped together.
By purchasing the RSA site we also helped release capital so the RSA could fund their move to a smaller, more affordable site on Hannah Street – which also fitted with their plans.
6. When will construction start?
Currently, construction is expected to start in January 2021.
This date is dependent on a number of factors however, so it's possible that there could be changes.
7. Who is building the new civic building, and why were they chosen?
The civic centre will be constructed by Canam, as they have proven success in completing construction projects of a similar scope.
8. Why aren't we using local contractors?
We will be. The lead contract was won by Canam, who are currently based in Auckland and Tauranga.
However, they have been doing an increasing amount of work in Northland (mainly in the health sector) and want to use our project as a springboard to establish a permanent operation in Whangārei.
We have also established a partnership with NorthTec to ensure 10% of all workers onsite are local apprentices or trainees – that means that one in every ten people working on the new civic building will be either learning a new trade, or getting practical experience in a trade they're currently studying.
In fact, there are already local firms on the team, and the intention is to use as many other local trades (e.g. tiling, painting etc.) as possible. One way or another, there will be plenty of locals employed on this project.
9. Who is the civic centre for?
In short – everyone.
It's going to be a community hub for all local government-related activity, with enough space to house all of our current staff under one roof, while providing an open and engaging customer interface.
We're also looking into making the ground floor a shared space for community use – but first and foremost, the civic centre is about bringing our team together in one building and enabling us to deliver a more efficient service for our community.