Sealed with golden kiss

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Roading costs to ratepayers should be half what they are – Van Uden.

Ratepayers are being diddled on roading costs because of non-competitive tendering, alleges outspoken Queenstown councillor Vanessa van Uden.

Approached this week, she claims ratepayers could be paying 50 per cent less if most roading jobs weren’t handed on a plate to a chosen few contractors.

Van Uden says her initial concern was that so-called rehabilitation jobs on both Gorge Road, from Queenstown towards Arthurs Point, and on the Crown Range between Glencoe and Eastburn were costing $1 million to $1.2m per kilometre.

In both cases, Queenstown Lakes District Council had done “gold-plated realignments”.

“When we did the Crown Range Rd sealing in 1999, it cost $4.1m for something like 17km.

“In today’s way of doing things it would have been $17m.

“Would we have ever sealed it?

“I don’t think so.”

Van Uden wanted QLDC to ask ratepayers, “Do you want the bees’ knees gold-plated version or do you just want the roads rehabilitated?”

She asked QLDC, for budgeting purposes, what the cost of only rehabilitating roads was, and was given the figure of $337,000 per km.

To her shock, Van Uden then found three other comparable rural councils, two in the South Island and one in the North Island, only budget $120,000 – $200,000 per km.

Under QLDC’s procurement policy, just 20 per cent of capital works are competitively tendered.

This week’s QLDC utilities committee agenda shows a seal extension project, put out to competitive tender, attracted eight bids – QLDC’s estimate was $343,720, $40,000 more than the highest bid and $150,000 more than the lowest bid.

If all work was tendered, ratepayers would see similar savings, Van Uden says.

“I am really worried, because in these difficult economic times council needs to make every dollar count.

“In fact it doesn’t even matter what sort of economy we are operating in, we should be making every dollar count all the time – they are not council or council staff’s dollars, they are ratepayer dollars.

“My biggest concern is that the current untested, non-competitive work procurement strategy methods will continue to fail to deliver value for money to the ratepayers of this community.”