The council’s new Southern Animal Shelter has cost $2.4m and will house just 10 dogs. Photo / Supplied
An existing dog kennel bought by Far North District Council to use as a dog pound has ballooned from a $200,000 upgrade project into a “bizarrely expensive” $2.4m facility that will house fewer dogs.
council bought Melka Kennels near Kaikohe in 2020 with the aim of converting the commercial dog kennels into a dog shelter that would serve the district’s busy southern area.
The original plan was to spend $200,000 to upgrade the site to meet national animal welfare codes to house up to 24 dogs.
Now the new Southern Animal Shelter has morphed into a purpose-built facility that has cost $2.4m and will house just 10 dogs.
The facility, due to be completed in May, features 10 individual indoor kennels, three quarantine kennels, a vet room, multiple exercise yards, secure drop-off areas, a food preparation room, and staff offices.
Bay of Islands Watchdogs group spokeswoman Leonie Exel said it was “bizarrely expensive”.
“The whole Melka purchase was a mess from start to finish.
“It was estimated at $200,000 to make it compliant, then they found out it would cost way more to comply with the code of temporary housing for companion animals.
“Having made that error they decided to level it rather than use the facility that was already there. That added massive cost to it.
“It’s extraordinarily expensive for a dog pound.”
The council bought the property on Ngapuhi Rd as a permanent place to house impounded dogs after nearly three years of using a temporary shelter at Horeke on land leased from a resident.
The council paid a market rate for the property – which included 0.3ha of land, a four-bedroom house, a kennel facility with two exercise areas, and a cottage for small dogs – below the asking price of $680,000.
The initial estimate of $200,000 to upgrade the kennels quickly rose to $600,000.
Council environmental services manager Rochelle Deane said a more thorough assessment of the buildings found that the investment needed to upgrade the kennels to meet animal welfare codes would be nearly the same as building a new facility.
As a result, the existing Melka Kennel buildings were sold and removed, and the site was cleared.
Deane said she believed the $2.4m spent on the pound was good value for money.
“Our district needs a second animal shelter that will meet national animal codes of welfare for many years to come.
“After recent increases in building costs, $2.4m is what construction of such a facility now costs.”
Some of the funding came from $1m the council was awarded in 2020 from the provincial growth fund following government calls for post Covid-lockdown, shovel-ready projects.
The remaining budget was drawn from existing budgets including the Long-Term Plan 2021-31, Deane said.
Deane said the purpose-built shelter would reduce travel times for owners wishing to reclaim their pets, as they have to travel to the Northern Animal Shelter in Kaitāia, which is currently used to secure all dogs impounded in the Far North.
Design features include kennel sizes that exceed New Zealand codes of welfare minimums, and separate exercise areas to provide dogs more time outside their kennels.
The facility includes concrete surfaces, separation barriers, separated drainage, and enclosed wastewater systems making the facility easy to clean and reduce the spread of disease.
The 2900sq m site is enclosed by a 1.8m high boundary fence with automatic gates.
Exel said she “doesn’t understand” why the new pound can only hold 10 dogs.
This could lead to more dogs being euthanised, and the current rates were already “awful”, she said.
Council figures analysed by the Watchdogs show the number of dogs being euthanised has risen from 26 per cent several years ago to 44 per cent in the 2021-22 financial year, she said.
At the time of purchase, former council district services general manager Dean Myburgh said the upgraded Melka animal shelter would be open to the public “so dog owners can view and identify impounded dogs, and dogs we are offering up for adoption can also be viewed”.
Now that’s not so clear.
“It is anticipated that in the future the public may be able to view adoption dogs at the shelter by appointment,” Deane said.
The new facility would complement the council’s northern animal shelter in Kaitāia, which opened in 2021 and can house 20 dogs, she said. That kennel cost $1.5 million.