Timaru District Council confirms Theater Royal cost explosion

A potential cost explosion to nearly $60 million for the Theater Royal and Heritage Hub redevelopment has forced Timaru District Council to rethink its options.

The Council confirmed on Friday that the final costs could be between $38 million and $57 million, depending on one of three accepted options.

The costs were finally released on Friday, three days after councilors voted behind closed doors on the new approach.

A spokesperson for the council said “councillors received the confirmed figures in their agendas on September 1 before Tuesday’s meeting.”

‘Estimates were received prior to this to enable council officers to draft the report for the agenda.’

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The council statement, which had to be legalized and signed by all councilors before publication, stated that “the council unanimously agreed to present three costed options to the community for their input following a detailed briefing project team, contractors and specialist consultants”.

“With an indicated increase in costs, due to the complexity of the project as well as local and global pressures from the building industry, it was decided to return the three strongest options to the community for their feedback before any final decision is made.”

A council spokesperson said the matter had been identified as a matter of high importance and staff had informed council that the matter needed to be consulted.

Friday’s statement came a day after the Department for Business, Innovation and Jobs provided The Herald Timaru reports revealing the cost of the project, which had a starting price of $24 million in November 2019 when the theater was closed for security reasons, then $29.3 million in 2021, had risen to around 39, $6 million in June 2022.

The three new options include two which propose to use existing parts of the theater and build the heritage centre, with the other option to restore only the theatre.

The Council’s statement indicates that the approximate figures for the overall project budget for each option are made up of costs to date, internal Council costs, contingency amounts and estimated construction costs.

The options are:

  • A. Construction of the heritage center and restoration of the theatre, conservation and renovation of the stage hall and construction of a new backstage building, including the improvement of access and connections between the buildings. The estimated costs the council received range from $53 million to $57 million. This option includes budgeted government funding of $11.6 million.
  • B Construction of the heritage center and restoration of the theatre, conservation and renovation of the stage hall and the backstage building. The estimated costs the council received range from $51 million to $56 million. This option includes budgeted government funding of $11.6 million.
  • VS Restore only the theater. Set aside adjacent land as a green site for possible heritage center development at a later date. The estimated costs the council received range from $38 million to $40 million. This option has no budgeted government funding, and it is unclear if government funding will be received for this option and may need to be funded entirely by the board.

“Designs, cost and tariff impacts, effects on approved government funding, and an overview of regulatory risks will be provided for these options, to enable informed community debate,” the statement said.

“The earlier option to remove and rebuild both the theater stage and backstage buildings has been ruled out by the board on the basis of feasibility and cost.”

“This decision was based on professional advice that the fabric of the theater building is in good condition and that as a heritage listed building it would be highly unlikely to obtain resource consent for demolition.”

Costs for the Theater Royal developments could be around $60 million depending on public consultation.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Costs for the Theater Royal developments could be around $60 million depending on public consultation.

The Council’s Group Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer, Jason Rivett, said that while some board and stakeholder feedback supported this option, the cost and regulatory complexity required outweighed the relatively minor gains in space and of facilities it would offer compared to the other viable options described above.

“While there was some support for a full stage reconstruction, through our detailed design process, it compared unfavorably to other options from a cost-benefit perspective and was extremely risky. high of major project delays,” he said.

“When the designs are released as part of the consultation, people will see that we worked hard with our designers to achieve most of what our stakeholders asked for, but in a streamlined and efficient way.”

The council’s spokesman said that ‘the expected costs described are based on detailed work carried out by independent quantity surveyors engaged by each of the contractors and the council’.

All of the council's options will involve restoring the theatre.

Provided

All of the council’s options will involve restoring the theatre.

MBIE information is included in the June 2022 quarterly report for projects that received funding under the government’s Shovel Ready stimulus fund.

According to the document, the council has spent $4.32 million of that funding, and the total spent on the project as of June 30 was $5.67 million.

The project received $11.6 million from the fund in September 2020, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Timaru.

At the time, Ardern said there were other “shovel-ready projects in South Canterbury that were being considered”, but “what we’re looking for are those projects that were really shovel-ready”.

“They already had a plan in place, they were already positioned for the work to start.

“They were ready to go, it was just a matter of having the extra investment to push it through,” she said at the time.

A concept sketch of one of the previous options of how part of the redevelopment might look.

Provided

A concept sketch of one of the previous options of how part of the redevelopment might look.

At the time, the increased cost estimate provided by MBIE was the first financial update the community had received in a year.

In July 2022, the council confirmed that they had finally started the project and expected work to be completed in 2024. There was no mention of an increase in costs – in fact, the board confirmed that the $29.3 million was correct as of July 15.

The Royal Theater is classified in category 2 Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Little of the original structure, a stone store remained. It opened as a theater on July 16, 1877, with the current auditorium, flight tower and dressing rooms added in 1911.