$60.3 million refurbishment ‘in the best interests of TVNZ,’ says Kenrick

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick

'I’m not a quantity surveyor – but': Kevin Kenrick defends TVNZ HQ refurbishment

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TVNZ's Kevin Kenrick’s neither confirm nor deny response to a question about rumours of a hook-up between his company and Spark is more likely to fuel speculation than douse it.

Talking on NBR Radio about criticism over the refurbishment of the company’s central Auckland building, Mr Kenrick laughs and bats away the question by noting he’s “heard rumours about us hooking up with everyone – I think there’s so much change occurring in the media space that there will be partnerships that occur, there will be rumours about partnerships that occur and I expect that will continue for some time to come.”

Mr Kenrick is much more eager to address what he believes are misapprehensions about what the refurbishment cost and where the money for it came from.

“Some of the reported comments” of chairwoman Joan Withers about how the building refit was funded internally by TVNZ without any government contribution “were a little bit lost in translation,” he says.

“What we talked about is how TVNZ has been able to fund this refurbishment without needing to incur any debt. And that’s come from a combination of divesting other property and, absolutely, a contribution from the government in terms of dividend relief.”

When it’s put to him the government was obliged to contribute something to the project, given it had promised part of TVNZ’s site to Sky City for its convention centre without consulting TVNZ’s board first, Mr Kenrick is adamant “the decision to sell land and buildings in Hobson Street was taken by the TVNZ board and not by the government” and that if it hadn’t been seen as being “in the best interests of TVNZ,” the sale wouldn’t have proceeded.

“We had a willing buyer for two pieces of land and buildings that, if we refurbished, became surplus to requirements,” he says.  “So it was a unique set of circumstances to upgrade a 25 year old building.”

Moving TVNZ’s headquarters out of pricey central Auckland was looked at as an alternative to refurbishment, he says, but was decided against because “we would need to rebuild the studios and also replicate all the technology infrastructure that plays out our content. So by the time you had to duplicate that cost, it made moving to a completely new site quite challenging from a financial point of view and the higher value outcome was to refurbish where we were.”

Inside TVNZ's new-look HQ

Criticism of the $60.3 million fit-out for being unnecessarily salubrious – including bright neon tubes snaking through the building and a 36sq m giant reception TV screen included is wrongheaded, Mr Kenrick says.

“I’m not a quantity surveyor but my understanding is neon tubes are very, very cheap. In fact, it’s quite a smart architectural way to make something look a little more flash than what it is.

“Most parts of the building were stripped back to concrete, they didn’t have any ceilings in place and if hanging a bit of neon tube makes it look a bit better and is a whole lot more cost effective, it sounds like a good outcome,” he laughs.

The bulk of the money went into “the structural integrity and the fit-out of the building,” including “some issues we had in terms of weather tightness.”

A major feature of the refurbishment was eliminating offices in favour of an open plan approach, for two reasons, Mr Kenrick says.

“If you remove offices you get a better utilisation of space so you can effectively get more people into the same space.

“And the second part of it is we want to have a collaborative environment where people are working together to deliver content and outcomes for viewers and we felt that physical walls got in the way of that.”

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