Any concerns about Civic Centre now put to rest

Published on 22 May 2023


Today I attended the kawanga whare (official blessing) for the new Civic Centre building.

This was a big moment for many reasons. It signalled a significant step towards the council moving in and opening the doors to the public, and it signalled the end of a long and at times contentious road to completion. Most of all, it signals the beginning of a new era for our district and how our council interacts with our customers.

I’ll be honest, while I saw the need for a new civic building, I was concerned about the price tag, and I struggled to justify this cost to the public. I asked myself, is this really the right way to meet the needs of our district? Is this something that will be a true community facility?

This morning my concerns were put to rest.

I joined a gathering of almost 200 people at 4.30am outside the new civic centre, and together we followed the kaumātua of Ngā Hapū o Whangārei, as they blessed the grounds, structure, and spaces.

The pride in this building could be seen on every face in the crowd, which included hapū, elected members, the Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA), council staff members, contractors, and consultants.

I recognised people from many local businesses who had been involved with the construction of the building, including landscaping, painting, security, surveying, electrical, plumbing and air conditioning, among many others.

I also recognised many of our hapū partners, and recalled the involvement of our Disability Advisory Group and Multi Ethnic Community Group members, who guided us through this project from day one.

While this building’s first purpose is to house council staff (who keep our core services running), I found this building to be much more than just an office space. It is a place where the whole community can feel safe and welcomed.

As I walked around the new civic centre, I felt like every dollar spent will triple in value over time. The place is built to last. It sets a new benchmark for sustainability in our district with zero-carbon, low-maintenance materials, clever water use and energy-saving technology.

The accessibility level exceeds expectations, with features including one of Northland’s only universal changing areas on the ground floor, wheelchair-accessible service desks, and meeting rooms with hearing loops to assist those with hearing aids. Hapū have partnered with council right from the very beginning, by monitoring the demolition phase and guiding the building design and landscaping features. This partnership has created a building that tells the story of our place and our people, making the space feel like it belongs to all of us.

This is also an exciting public space, with beautiful features for all to enjoy. I’m looking forward to the next International Rally of Whangārei, where we may even have a rally car in the foyer, who knows!

Soon we will be holding an official opening, which will be publicly advertised for all to attend. I hope to see you there, and I hope you will feel the same sense of pride I did this morning.

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