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Greenmeadows fiasco: Four years on we finally know what went wrong


Staff member
Dec 16, 2021
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ANALYSIS: The promised external review of one of the Nelson City Councils most beleaguered projects has finally been made public, and its findings are damning.
The Ptangitangi Greenmeadows community centre construction project was controversial from the get-go. There were multiple significant cost increases many, though not all, due to the council asking for more features.

Alarm bells really started to ring in 2018, two years after construction started, when a last-ditch request for more funding was brought to council.

Contractors around town some involved in the project, some not had a better understanding than most of what they were looking at as the Jurassic Park project failed to develop as expected, looking like it goes backwards in time every time you go past it.

* Review for troubled council build, Greenmeadows, planned for next month
* Greenmeadows fiasco 'resolved' with $340,000 payment
* Greenmeadows fiasco putting other council projects under pressure
* Mayor says risk reporting failing to identify 'steaming trainwreck' projects

Eventually, someone blew the whistle and supplied Stuff a document of all known construction faults in the building at the time.

The list already seemed endless at the start, but it only grew as time went on: more questions were asked, more people came forward and more mysteries were uncovered in the beast that got out of control.

There were mystery subcontractors from out of town and unpaid motel bills. An independent review of the building found far more issues than expected, including a twist in the roof, incorrectly installed or missing bracing, and other basic blunders.

Outgoing council chief executive Pat Dougherty said at Thursdays meeting that the Greenmeadows project had dominated 4.5 of his five-year tenure at the council, as serious alarm bells rang in 2018.

Finally, after several years and a legal process that saw the project completed up to scratch and the council clawing back $340,000, the full and final review of how the councils processes contributed to the fiasco has been made public.

The external review was carried out by Kludup, the capital intelligence division of project management company RDT Pacific.

The reviewers discovered a list of fundamental failings in the councils processes.

Getting down to business (cases)​

The first step of any project is to establish what problem needs solving and how best to solve it this is the role of the business case.

The council stumbled at the first hurdle, with a business case which did not address any of the requirements ...[of a business case] in sufficient detail.

Stuff/Nelson Mail
Exposed eaves during the construction project allowed moisture into the building. Expensive cedar cladding had to be re-done not once but twice due to errors in the installation process.

Further, there is no evidence that the business case was referenced in, or incorporated into, the brief, cost plan, risk plan, benefits realisation plan or procurement plan ... at any point after the decision to invest was made.

Project briefs help keep projects brief​

The project brief is where requirements, objectives, and expectations can be found, where constraints are highlighted, assumptions tested and benchmarks set against which project delivery and success can be measured.

There was no project brief as defined, Kludup reported.

This meant the project delivery team were left to create their own, different interpretations of the project requirements as the project rolled on.

There is no evidence of why no formal brief was developed, but we assume that the common impetus to just get on with it may have prevailed.

Further, a baseline programme to keep the project on schedule was not developed. Instead, the programme completion dates were essentially allowed to drift.

Up the creek without a paddle, captain or rudder​

Anyone who has worked on a shared project knows how important it is that everyone involved knows what their job is and when they need it completed.

This kind governance framework was missing in action, leaving staff to muddle through an already muddled project.

Water entered the building during the construction, leaving internal beams sodden. The review did not look into construction issues, but the council processes that fed into the runaway project.

The reviewers found there was a lack of clear communication structure and standard project governance meetings, and some internal project managers [were] selected without the required skills and experience.

Governance frameworks are usually found in Project Execution Plans something the Greenmeadows project did not have.

There were also no project control group forums, a type of meeting usually held monthly.

In the absence of such a forum, the project appears to have relied upon inexperienced, over-committed staff doing the right thing.

Plan procurement or come a cropper​

The best practice method for selecting contractors involves carefully planning out procurement, gathering project information, determining a preferred delivery model, and planning an approach to the market and tender process.

Instead of that, the Greenmeadows procurement had elements of a procurement approach adopted or developed on an ad-hoc basis, and red flags were missed.

The appointed external project manager attained the lowest overall scores across all non-price attributes and had a tender submission price [$4.6 million] considerably lower than the average.

A competent internal project leader would have been alarmed at the range of prices offered ... and at the fee offered by the chosen consultant (which was patently inadequate for the project planned), the review found.

There were also very surprising omissions from the contract, including no requirement for a quality plan or professional indemnity insurance.

Part of the review was redacted, but the reviewers then said they could only speculate that they did not recognise the risk that was being run when choosing the not required check box.


Martin De Ruyter/Stuff
Mayor Rachel Reese said she was pleased with the review, but she hoped the council was never in the position of needing such a review ever again.

The review included several recommendations to help avoid similar disasters in future, many of which the council had already implemented before the review was finished.

Many of those recommendations boiled down to putting in the time to prepare plans, briefs, and similar road-map measures before shovel meets earth.

The council has already implemented several changes, including improvements to in-house resourcing of project delivery, assigning appropriate contingencies, understanding up-front project risks better and undertaking ongoing reviews of risks as projects run, and establishing a Tenders Subcommittee to provide increased governance oversight of procurement.

The council now applies a non-price attribute advantage of up to 10% for local contracting firms in tender processes and has increased due diligence on tenderers.

The council has also improved processes for iwi engagement at all project stages.

The full report can be read here.

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