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Why I Opposed Council Funding for the AUT Campus

Why I Opposed Council Funding for the AUT Campus

Michael Williams, Botany-Clevedon Councillor

Manukau City Council proposes to purchase land in Great South Road for an AUT campus. I was one of only two councillors (Quax and Williams) who opposed proceeding to consultation. My reasons for voting against were as follows:

Manukau has for some time been working on a proposal for a university precinct at Manukau City Centre. This proposal is not in keeping with that plan as the land is quite a distance from the proposed precinct and therefore will not deliver the transportation and city centre vibrancy outcomes desired.

High Debt / Reduced Capacity to Borrow
It is proposed that the purchase / development be funded by $60 million of debt. Council's capacity to raise debt for major infrastructure projects will be limited by this investment.

I don't believe claims that "It won't cost ratepayers a cent". The 8 hectare site is too large for the proposed use and as a result, the rent yield will be less than half the interest cost. The loss over five years could be as high as $15 million. At a time when many predict property values will plateau, as they did from 1996 to 2002, council is relying on increases in property value of three times the rate of inflation just to break even.

Financial Analysis
Council Officers have not provided financial projections for the project. In my view council should not have gone to consultation without first understanding the financial impact. This represents a significant change to the LTCCP and the financial impacts of the decision should be understood and disclosed.

Effect on MIT
We have seen in recent weeks that MIT have had to lay off 7% of their staff. I cannot see any value in Council subsidising the entry of a potential competitor which may further erode MIT's position.

Educational Need
The rationale for establishing a "University" is to provide educational pathways for young people who are currently not going on to further education. My view is that MIT is better placed to meet the unmet educational need than AUT.

No Silver Bullet
This is not a "Manukau University', but a satellite campus for a hybrid university / polytechnic (AUT) within 2km of an existing polytechnic (MIT). Even if it was a University, it would not be the silver bullet to remedy poor educational outcomes in South Auckland.

I will be listening very closely to what residents and ratepayers have to say during the submission process. I encourage those in support and in opposition to this proposal to lodge written and/or verbal submissions to council. However, I have not yet heard any convincing argument that would lead me to support this proposal.

Michael Williams, Botany-Clevedon Councillor, 15 December 2007


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