Nelson Residents Association


Trafalgar Centre

Stuart Walker speaks to the Trafalgar Centre Public Forum –

Thursday 23 July 2015

After last week’s meeting, I have now had time to contemplate on Mr Kirby’s Trafalgar Centre Report.


The total cost estimate of $13m does NOT include the new $2.1m access road to the Trafalgar Centre  –

If anyone of you argues that it is part of the Rutherford Park expenditure,

I ask this question      –

“If the Trafalgar Centre was NOT at the end of the road,

would this road still need to be built?” –

The answer of course is “NO”.  So it IS indeed , a Trafalgar Centre cost,       and to be completely honest, you now need to add another $2.1m to your total

Mr Kirby HAS included $662k of 2014/15 costs already spent , but I can identify a FURTHER $1.0m at least, that you have ALSO ALREADY spent to date –

the $600k at Saxton Stadium is an example , plus all the EQ Assessment work done from March 2013 up to the December 2013 Closure.

This means you are now up to at least $16.1m, which is plainly unacceptable AND   $6m OVER your budget limit of $10m.- a 60% cost over run before you start !

Remember, the Nelson City Council has a sad history of huge cost over runs.!


CUT UNNECSSARY COSTS to meet your budget!

There is certainly NO NEED to spend anything like $ 4.1m on the Main Stadium,

or to build a new access road only 210 metres long , but costing $2.1m.!


Last week for the first time, we have had the Trafalgar Centre described by Engineers as “a very BRITTLE building”.

My Oxford Dictionary defines “brittle” as    “apt to break” or “ fragile”

Hardly a fair description of the Trafalgar Centre.

But, if “Brittle” is also a recognised engineering term, then why on earth has it taken over 24 months for this new and emotive description to be used?


The following information is taken from the NCC Website –

Out of approximately 100 Council Buildings, there are approximately 30 that have so far been listed as potentially an Earthquake RISK, and another 14 already further assessed and deemed to be Earthquake PRONE –

Three high- use examples on this list are the Stoke Hall (20%of Code) ,

Main Library (28%), Nelson Airport (26%).

All with either the same rating , or LESS than the Trafalgar Centre’s 28%.

All have the same 124 Earthquake Prone Notice as the Trafalgar Centre   –

but these three are NOT closed!

In 2013 ,the Trafalgar Centre had an annual average use of 110,000 people, (not a lot in the scheme of things) - but let’s compare it with the Airport,

which has , on the same basis, 800,000 passengers, and then you add those meeting and farewelling travellers, and you come to perhaps a total nearer

2 million people, annually using the Nelson Airport.

Yes,2 million people at risk at the airport ,compared to only 110,000 at the TC.

Look at these photos of a laminated timber beam located above the busy airport waiting area.(It is near the toilets) You can see there is a 50mm SAG in this beam, and YES it is of the same ” brittle “ construction as the Trafalgar Centre roof arches !


Apparently No Engineer has said the Airport had to close –

And certainly no Engineer has said the TC had to close – only your City Solicitor.

You may well say you’ve never seen a 124 Notice at the Airport – well I hadn’t either, until I went searching for it, and finally found it discreetly placed away from common view, over on the far side of the cafeteria wall.

This notice says like all the others, that “it does not achieve 34% of Code.”

What happens now, if there is a significant Earthquake and the Airport collapses ,with major injuries or loss of life there?   Are YOU all Liable here?

You can’t have ONE ruling for one , and a DIFFERENT ruling, for the other.

Your CEO has an obligation to ensure that NCC treats all Council buildings the same – need I say more?


You are now about to contemplate a complete demolish and re-build of the Northern End of the Trafalgar Centre, purely on the basis of only one Building Company’s price of $4.1m.

As a Ratepayer, I find this situation absolutely APPALLING.

This completely new Northern End, should now be treated as an entirely NEW and SEPARATE PROJECT, as it has a very distinct demarcation line out from the Main Stadium northern wall.

As such, once the new layout has been finalised ,and Plans and Specifications have been produced by the Architects, then this new separate build MUST


This is the proper NCC process , and would only add 2 months at most, to the finishing date.

You Councillors are being asked to spend $4.1m of Ratepayers money based on a price from only one Builder, who is in a very privileged position.

There is too much at stake here.

There will undoubtedly be quality builders available, who would relish the opportunity to price this work.

This Northern End has a floor area similar to 2 large single storey houses –

and the foundations are already done -   $4.1m seems outrageous to me.


There has now been a very considered response to Mr Kirby’s report of last week by Mr Ian Hatton – the TC’s original Structural Design Engineer.

This is very relevant to today’s deliberations, and must be seriously considered in its entirety, by you all.

The Mayor has this letter, and it should have been circulated to you all by now.

Have you all seen it? If you haven’t, then you need to.

Councillors will need time to digest Mr Hatton’s response, before the T.C. deliberations commence today.

Finally, in Mr Kirby’s Report attached to today’s Agenda, under BACKGROUND

It states amongst other things, that the City Solicitors advice in Dec.2013 was

that just strengthening the Trafalgar Centre to only 34% alone, was NOT SUFFICIENT to meet all Statutory obligations under Health and Safety Legislation, but that it should go up to at least 67%.

Since December 2013 we have been told many times by you all, that Mr Ironsides legal advice caused you to immediately close the Trafalgar Centre.

However, we now have a new final clause (14.8) added to last weeks draft –which NOW states that strengthening to 34%, WILL now meet your obligations under Health and Safety Legislation.

This appears to me to be completely contrary to Mr Ironsides advice , that you all acted on in Good Faith, to close the Trafalgar Centre , back in Dec 2013.

So it now appears to me, that the City Solicitors legal advice was INCORRECT on this very important point.

Perhaps Mr Grant Cameron’s other legal opinion ( which is currently being withheld from the public by your CEO) may be able to shed some light on this very interesting development ?

I now suggest that the MEDIA pursue this rather interesting situation.


Thank you for the opportunity to bring the above critical points to your attention.

Stuart Walker.


Testing how the earth might move for Trafalgar Centre

  by ANNA BRADLEY-SMITH - Nelson Mail, March 25, 2015

 Ground work and testing is under way at the Trafalgar Centre as Nelson City Council pushes to meet the building's reopening deadline of next February.

A large Fugro Geotechnical truck, one of two in the country, has arrived from Christchurch to test the seismic strength of the ground under the building.

The hope is the tests will reveal minimal or no ground remediation work will be needed. If that is the case the council will face a much lower price tag for strengthening the building and most work can be focused on bringing the structure up to national building standard requirements.

Council contracted engineer Richard Kirby said the technology used by Fugro was cutting-edge and had been used in Christchurch and overseas.

By drilling 15-20 metres deep and sending pulses into the ground at eight points around the building the team will measure the seismic strength of the earth and the level of lateral movement and liquefaction expected in an earthquake.

The tests are being conducted over two days and an analysis of the data is expected to take four to six weeks.

During that time Nelson City Council will select a construction and geotechnical contractor as part of the early contractor involvement process.

This means a contractor will be involved the whole way through the process, from reviewing the data from the underground modelling, to choosing a construction solution, completing the detailed design, scheduling and pricing.

By following this process the council is not committing to work with the contractor and the most cost-effective solution will be determined at the final pricing phase.

A report on the early contractor involvement process and outcomes will go to the council next month and designs for the building are expected in May.

The tender for the contract closes on April 15 and a decision is due in June, along with the results of the seismic assessment.

Council manager of capital projects Shane Davies said the process and the testing showed the council's commitment to getting the centre reopened as soon as possible.



Consulting engineer for Nelson City Council, Richard Kirby, left, and Fugro Geotechnical manager John Cresswell with ground testing equipment at the Trafalgar Centre.








Opus International Consultants Ltd – 26.Feb.15

CLICK HERE: Extracts from Opus Report


Feb 22, 2015

Things are "hotting up" as we come closer to hearing a decision by the new project manager for Trafalgar Centre and the School of Music.

Here is a letter we prepared and sent to the Mayor and Councilors.  There will also be notices in the paper:

Nelson City Councillors, Mayor and Citizens please take note.

Any proposed additional expenditure on the Trafalgar Centre must be subject to re-assessment and approval by the citizens of Nelson City through the Annual and Long Term Plan submission process or a special public meeting.

The above statement is based on the fact that no acknowledgement has been made by Nelson City Council of the serious flaws in the reports and legal opinion pertaining to the complex.

$3.2M of expenditure on the Trafalgar Centre was accepted by the community to be spent by June 2015. Of that, $1.4M (excluding NCC staff time) has been spent on flawed reports and legal opinions leaving allowable expenditure up to a maximum of $1.8M.

Councillors are legally bound under the terms of the Local Government Act 2002 to adhere to these requirements.

It should be noted that the above figures do not include the projected $500,000 loss of income while the Trafalgar Centre is closed.

Yours sincerely
Ken Meredith
Secretary/Treasurer, Nelson Residents' Association Incorporated



If you didn't see it in the Nelson Mail

on Saturday, Jan 10, 2015...

you can read it here!

Article for the “Voices” column by Kerry C Neal.

Over the last fifteen years I have helped with the running of many public meetings which allowed candidates for office of the Nelson City Council to state their aims, objectives and philosophies in front of the people. Every time I would think great – “this time we’ve actually got a bunch that knows what their role is and we can at last look forward to a council committed to representing the people, not a continuation of protecting and covering for the inadequacies of Local Government.”

Well, I must be a slow learner or very patient or perhaps even a little naïve, because every time a new council is elected the pledges immediately fly out the window and a firewall between the people and the corporation is put up. It is almost as if, when new councillors lean over the council table, a virus jumps up their noses and numbs their senses to what they were elected to do – represent the people.

Actually, we can’t entirely blame them. Back in 1989 the then Minister of Local Government, Philip Woollaston, with good intentions, introduced a New Deal for Local Government which took away much of the power of elected representatives and handed it to the executive. If councillors wish to avoid much of the harsh criticism they are currently being subjected to, they must lobby to have the law modified. Supporting the system as it is will see a continuation of short-term tenures.

This brings me to the very serious issue of where to with the Trafalgar Centre? To date, since February 2013, councillors have been fed enormous and bewildering amounts of conflicting statements and reports. In fact, approximately thirty to forty people have been involved at a cost of $1.4M and still nothing has been resolved. For those of you who have been following this sorry saga, you will recall where it started. The piles were believed to be only 3m deep, putting them in unsatisfactory material, that details of many of the components of the building could not be found, and that the ground would liquefy. Professor Emeritus in Civil Engineering, Rod Davies from Canterbury University, states in his report, “that it must be acknowledged that the soils beneath the Trafalgar Centre are not of a nature to immediately suggest liquefaction.”

Connell Wagner, in their May 2007 report stated “that liquefiable soils were not logged in the bore holes”. When one studies the complexity and high level of engineering in the Trafalgar Centre, one is entitled to keep pushing for the facts to be exposed, not assumptions as has been the case.

On 28th November 2013 the Works Committee of NCC listened to consultants telling them that the Trafalgar Centre arches would accept up to 750mm of spread before there is need for concern. On 18th December 2014 these same people listened to Richard Kirby, a hired gun from Feilding, telling them that the arches would only accept 100mm of spread before collapsing. Suddenly the arches have become the villains. The chairman of that committee is on record stating that the council has a very robust management in place and that everything is under control!

Councillors are quick to tell us that they have to rely on “professionals” for guidance but their lack of response to the above most basic examples of gross ineptitude is not only irresponsible, it is laughable and is another reason why, except for one member of the committee, councillors should excuse themselves from their position and invite people with practical knowledge to take over the Trafalgar Centre debacle before more embarrassment and unnecessary expense is committed.

Mr Kirby has been made aware of his conflicting statement but to date has elected not to acknowledge it. Consequently, his silence has now implicated him in what appears to be a continuation of a desperate attempt to cover up the irresponsible behaviour of his peers.

Except for a statement from a disputes resolution consultant, Alan Bickers from Tauranga, “that no work needs to be done below the ground under the main stadium and Victory room”, all consultants have failed to respond to the exposure of the flaws in their reports. Perhaps the most disappointing thing is the lack of response from the legal input. It is too late now to minimise the extremely negative effect the wrong information has had on the Trafalgar Centre but had the facts, as exposed, been fronted up to in February 2014 the maligning of our civic centre would have been greatly reduced. Saying nothing and hoping it would go away has been very damaging and will now make it a tough job for someone to regain the confidence the Trafalgar Centre deserves.

Councillors take note – ratepayers have approved $3.2M expenditure on the Trafalgar Centre. You have spent up big already, so be careful.


Kerry has had a career in the construction industry which closely connects on a daily basis with most facets of industry, commerce, the general public and Local Government. His deep interest in civic affairs is intergenerational.

Further information can be viewed on




Nelson Residents Association

DIRECT BANKING ACCT: 03 0703 0313476 00

27 October 2014

Recently tabled at the October meeting of the NRA was a 30-page detailed document entitled

"The Trafalgar Centre: Chronicle of a Fiasco"



24 September 2014

4 pages from the original Trafalgar Centre Plans

and a 4-page "Investigation of pile concrete..." by Tonkin & Taylor dated 26 May 2014

Recently made available - see for yourself



Foundation Plan



Pile Plan and Pile Cap Details




Typical Arch Buttresses




Laminated Timber Arch and Roof Fixing Details








July 21 Letters to the Editor:
It makes you cry...
Let's get a few things straight.  If it hadn't been for a dedicated group of highly experienced people whose sole aim was to expose the serious flaws in the process of determining the integrity of the Trafalgar Centre, council would still be relying on lawyers' opinions.
The unnecessary closure was based on a legal opinion which did not recognise that all the reports were draft interim documents therefore they should never have been accepted as final.
The bogey of liquefaction suddenly has disappeared.
The condition of the piles has been recorded as pristine.  The fact that the piles are down to "competent material", not three metres as claimed, clearly implies that most of the above ground "desk top calculations" on the stadium are irrelevant.
The reports state that the authors could not find critical items on the plans.  If they had looked at the specifications they would have found all they needed.
These same people were called back to a meeting on May 7 at a cost of $45,000, to re-assess their position.  They now state "that the main hall and northern sections of the building are likely to need above-ground work only".  It makes one weep.
Kerry Neal, Nelson

June 26, 2014 - The Nelson Leader


June 24, 2014 Editorial:

Trafalgar Centre questions remain.
There will be general relief that the Nelson City Council seems at last to be making progress towards reopening the Trafalgar Centre.
It is equally welcome that the necessary strengthening work will not cost anything like the initial estimate of $27m.
The centre has now been closed for half a year.  There have been significant cost in re-establishing the region's main sports and entertainment centre's main functions at Saxton Stadium.
There have also been losses of income, cancellations and disruptions to those who had regularly used the centre.
Now, the city council is looking at budgeting nearly half a million dollars for a project manager to take charge of getting the centre fixed and back in business.
Based on the information they had in front of them last December when councillors took the extreme step of closing the centre, their decision was the right and proper one.
They had to put public safety first.  Potential liability issues were also, rightly, given significant weight.
However, a range of questions remains.  How much will the strengthening cost?  Will a separate figure for that work alone be given, or will it be rolled in with the planned extension to the stadium's northern end?
The centre foundations were proven to be more than three times longer and more substantial than alleged in the initial reports to council.
Would the expert - and council - conclusion that the stadium might face catastrophic failure in the event of a moderate earthquake have been less clear-cut if the truth had been known before the decision to close?
Would the centre have even been closed had it been known that the bulk of the foundations were in fact sound?
Were councillors spooked by fear over the potential for liquefaction - a term rarely used in public before the devastating Christchurch earthquakes?
The efforts - and initial frustration - of former city councillor Kerry Neal to bring the truth of the matter before councillors should be noted.
Some wise older heads among council staff have moved on recent years.  While that is inevitable in any field, the loss of such "intellectual property" can be significant in public areas such as councils and government departments.
It is noteworthy the only part of the building now believed to require underground strengthening work is the southern extension, completed just five years ago at an over-budget cost of $7m.
Why, then, if those in charge of the main building project 40 years ago got it right, foundation-wise, was the same sort of care and oversight not followed for the upgrade in 2007-09?  Was there more foresight or general building knowledge in the council several decades ago than there is now, even if the building code is more stringent nowadays?
Such quiestions aside, it is to be hoped the centre is up and running again soon.  The city needs it.

On June 19, 2014 the Council voted unanimously to advertise and hire a new Project Manager

to prepare the Trafalgar Centre for reopening in the near future.


The NRA feels that the EXPERTISE, PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE, and COMMON SENSE qualities of the person appointed as Project Manager will be absolutely CRITICAL to the SATISFACTORY OUTCOME for the Nelson Ratepayers. 

This person must be someone completely new to the T.C. situation, not tainted with previous involvement to date, and able to read Plans and Specifications.

It is also critical that maximum momentum is maintained by all concerned
to achieve the objective of actually “OPENING THE DOORS“ asap.

A historical timeline.... start at the bottom

June 19, 2014



Here is how our campaign started:







The closure of the Trafalgar Centre was undertaken by council in response to some flawed technical reports (which may be viewed on the city council website).                           


In summary, the facts are: 


1)  There is nothing in any report that states that the TC had to close.


2)  That the reference to lateral spread ignores the fact that lateral ties exist and are part of the foundations.


3)  That the piles are 9 – 12 metres deep but again are not recognised as such in the reports.  Alex Louverdis is on record stating they are 3 metres deep.


4)  The decision to close the TC was based on an interim report (discussion document) and should not have involved a lawyer.

5)  Because of the many flaws in the process to date, any suggestion of expenditure to upgrade the present building is premature.  The entire calculations appear to have been based on assumption rather than fact and consequently a comprehensive review should take place including the identification of whoever is responsible for the enormous costs that have been incurred to date.



If you feel strongly about what you read, write to your favourite councillor

(You can find their email addresses on-line on their






Click here for:  Letter from Mr. David Brathwaite to Mr. Kerry Neal - March 25, 2014

Click here for:  Written Submission by Stuart Keith Walker

Click here for:  Oral presentation by Stuart Keith Walker

Click here for:  Written Submission by Ross Wylie

Click here for:  Oral presentation by Ross Wylie

A bit of Humour!  Voices Column in the Nelson Mail May 17, 2014


Click here for:  Voices: by Stuart Walker


Click here for:  Nelson Mail 23 April 2014 "Centre piles confirmed at a depth of 11 metres"




Nelson Evening Mail May 24, 1971

Work has begun on the foundations for the Trafalgar Centre.  Already two of the 100 piles have been drilled.

Once the holes have been drilled to solid foundation, 30ft to 40ft down, steel pipes like the one in the foreground are then placed in the hole to serve as a casing.  Reinforcing steel will then be installed and concrete poured.  When the concrete is set the casings will be withdrawn for use again.

Assisting a mobile crane to stack a supply of the 18 inch casings are Messrs A. Hemelink (left) and J. Lashmar.

 Drilling_1.jpg drilling_2.jpg


We applaud Mayor Reese for keeping her December promise and making the following reports available to the public.

Trafalgar Centre

Report downloads



Go to the Nelson City Council website for technical report downloads.