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Auckland City considers stronger property role

Auckland City considers stronger property role, beginning with the waterfront

Auckland City Council may seek to purchase a large area of the central waterfront in the first step of a proposed stronger role in the city’s development.

The council’s waterfront working party will put its recommendation to the council at a special meeting on Friday in order to address the piecemeal development underway in the waterfront area and the city as a whole.

This follows today’s legal opinion from leading constitutional lawyer and former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer that there is no legal basis for Westhaven Marina to be transferred to Auckland City.

The report the council considers on Friday proposes that the council consult with the public to: take a more active role in the development of key areas negotiate with Ports of Auckland to purchase certain waterfront land tender for Westhaven and Hobson West Marinas and decide on the best funding option for the proposal.

Two major work streams of council converge with this proposal. A special steering team has been working for months on the best solution for the growing development issues in the city.

“The city is undergoing a transformation at present with many new people, new energy and a large number of new developments to cater for these positive changes,” said Councillor Scott Milne, chair of the council’s waterfront working party and the Recreation and Events committee. “Our vision is of an attractive, exciting Auckland with vibrant local communities and a people-focussed, energetic city centre.”

Auckland City is concerned that an increasing amount of development in the city is not achieving the vision. Particularly driving the council’s concerns are the quality of design and the amenities being provided for people.

“With the proposed sale of Westhaven Marina this project took on a new urgency for the council,” said Mr Milne. “We realised that immediate action was needed to coherently develop the waterfront area to achieve our vision. As a result, we have approached Ports of Auckland over the possibility of purchasing certain properties from Queens Wharf through to west of the Harbour Bridge.

“Auckland City is planning to have discussions with central government and the Auckland Regional Council about our proposals for the future of the waterfront. We will certainly work with them to develop our plans and explore any other options that will help achieve our objectives for the area. However the city council is the only organisation in a position to take a holistic view of the waterfront development.

“Westhaven is rightfully owned by Ports of Auckland and any legal challenge to the sale would be a waste of time, money and resources. Some may be disappointed however Friday’s report to the council looks to the future rather than getting bogged down in 15 year old decisions we can’t change.”

The council is not intending to become a property developer in the waterfront or any other area of Auckland. However as landowner the council would be able to exercise a greater influence over what gets built in key areas to ensure developments are appropriate to their location, well designed and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

The report suggests this could be achieved via an enterprise board made up of city councillors and external appointees. The board’s role would be to take the objectives set by the council and identify opportunities to purchase land in strategically important areas of the city. It would then guide its development to ensure the council’s objectives are met.

Regardless of the approach, this new, stronger role would almost always involve the council working in partnership with the private sector or other organisations such as Ports of Auckland.

“The port underpins much of Auckland’s economic activity and growth. Ensuring the port is able to serve New Zealand’s import and export trade with the world into the future is an important aspect of the waterfront development, “ said Mr Milne.

The commercial port is becoming more concentrated in the eastern part of the waterfront and Auckland City has approached Ports of Auckland to talk about properties that may no longer be core business. This includes Princes Wharf, Wynyard Point (the Tank Farm) and the Western Viaduct replacement and could include Queens Wharf in the future.

As for Westhaven and Hobson West Marinas, as noted earlier Auckland City intends to participate in the tender process.

Other projects that could potentially benefit from this stronger property role include Auckland Innovation Park – a development to take better advantage of the area surrounding the University of Auckland’s Tamaki Campus. By working with other stakeholders the council would like to develop a new business district fostering the development of young growing firms.

Purchasing areas that are strategically important to the city’s development is a major undertaking. To acquire Westhaven and other waterfront land as well as property in the city’s growth areas would probably cost between $100 million and $400 million dollars, depending on which properties are purchased.

If, on Friday, the council approves the recommendations, Auckland City will consult on the proposal between 22 March and 21 April. Meantime, the council intends to lodge a bid for Westhaven and Hobson West Marinas, subject to the consultation process, in order to meet the tender deadline of 31 March.

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