$35.6m contract to Dunedin company

Workers at Dunedin company Amalgamated Builders Ltd are celebrating after landing a $35.66 million contract to upgrade the city's town hall, Dunedin Centre and municipal chambers.

Dunedin City Council chief executive Jim Harland yesterday issued a statement confirming the company had won the construction contract, beating rival bids from two other Dunedin companies.

Work on the project was due to begin within two weeks and be completed by December 2012, creating work for up to 150 people - including up to 25 ABL staff and other subcontractors in Dunedin.

ABL director and area manager Richard Johnston, of Dunedin, said the decision meant job security for his staff at a time when the company had been considering a fresh round of redundancies.

ABL had been part of a joint venture, together with Lund South, that missed out on a carpentry contract at the Forsyth Barr Stadium site earlier this year.

While not wanting to reignite that debate, Mr Johnston said the company - like the industry - continued to experience tough times.

"Potentially, we would have had more lay-offs to come. There could have been another 10 staff, long-term staff, potentially becoming redundant."

Instead, an estimated "20 to 25" existing staff would be involved in the town hall project, which was "a significant project by Dunedin standards".

"It will be quite some time since a Dunedin builder has been awarded a project of this size and value."

All the project's subcontractors would be drawn from within Dunedin, Mr Johnston said.

"There was a lot of pricing [interest] from out of town ... but we have gone with all locals. We felt that it was very important to look after the subcontractors that look after us.

"It's a significant amount of jobs secured."

The $35.66 million construction contract would form the bulk of the overall $45.8 million cost of the upgrade.

ABL beat bids by rival Dunedin companies Lund South and Naylor Love to win the contract, based on price and other "attributes" including the company's track record, Mr Johnston said.

That track record included working as lead contractor building the Chinese Garden and the Regent Theatre redevelopment now under way, as well as adding three floors to the top of Otago House.

Mr Harland said it was "vital that we have a contractor sympathetic to the needs of upgrading this complex in one of the city's most important heritage precincts, and our past experience of working with ABL gives us every confidence this will be the case".

The fixed-price contract would bring "substantial" improvements to the town hall, Dunedin Centre and municipal chambers, including upgraded conference and in-house facilities and enhanced fire safety features, he said.

A glass cube-shaped entrance would also replace the existing entrance, after plans for an atrium in Harrop St were scrapped.

"The upgrade is expected to meet the council's specific demands ... for generations to come," he said.

The project would be undertaken in stages, beginning with work inside the municipal chambers within two weeks, followed by the Dunedin Centre upgrade beginning by next May.

Initial work on the town hall would also start by May, and be largely under way by October.

The municipal chambers was expected to be completed by March next year, and the rest of the project by December 2012.