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Auckland Council To Face High Court

Auckland Council is facing a judicial review proceeding at the High Court over its decision to sell Downtown Carpark to Precinct Properties.

The judicial review has been lodged by Save the Queen Street Society Incorporated which accuses the council of failing to abide by local government legislation.

CBD property owner Andrew Krukziener, Secretary of the Society, promised legal action after council representatives voted in favour of the sale to Precinct Properties last November.

He believes it will lead to significant damage to the retailers and users of the central city through the loss of the 1,950 car parks.

“Businesses will close, buildings will be abandoned, and people will simply go elsewhere where there is convenient parking.”

Mr Krukziener accuses the governing body of a failure to fulfil its obligation to seek and identify all reasonable and practicable options when taking a decision to sell council land, an obligation it has under Section 77 of the Local Government Act.

The sale nets the council $47 million which is considered an absurdly low price for 1,950 car parks.

The Society presented an alternative proposal which would net the Council $350 million and retain 1,000 public carparks by keeping the existing building and selling the air rights to develop towers above it.

“This is an additional $303 million better for the ratepayers and is a sum that single handedly would solve one year of Council’s deficit.”

Mr Krukziener says it would also mean the council would not need to demolish the Hobson Street flyover, which it has committed to do in the long-term plan as part of the sale to Precinct at a cost to ratepayers of $75 million.

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“This alternative proposal delivers an extra $303 million to Council at a time when it desperately needs it, maintains critical public car parking in downtown and is much more environmentally friendly than the Precinct proposal”.

Precinct Properties’ plan is to demolish the carpark, dig a multi-storey hole in the ground into reclaimed land, build 740 car parks for itself underground and then develop a podium and two towers above.

Andrew Krukziener believes Precinct’s proposal is an environmental disaster causing more than 20,000 truckloads of concrete and contaminated material to be taken to landfill.

“The disruption to the city and the damage to the roading system of this level of truck movement will be significant. Precinct’s proposal, given its demolition and mass excavation, will take five years. Precinct tout its green credentials - even having a full-time employee espousing their green virtues as a company. To cause this kind of environmental damage when a better, greener alternative is available is nothing short of an embarrassment.”

Save Queen Street’s alternative scheme sees a structure built through the carpark which supports the construction of towers on top of the existing building.

The construction of the structure takes up 150 carpark spaces - still leaving 1800 in the building.

These can be allocated as follows: 1,000 for public car parking, 400 carparks to be used with the towers above and 400 already leased to surrounding building owners.

“The alternative enables continuous use of the public carpark and is very environmentally friendly. In addition, it will cause no disruption to the city and is a two-year rather than a five-year project.”

Andrew Krukziener also highlights the fact that recent revelations around new overnight parking charges in the CBD just add to angst for businesses and the visiting public.

Meanwhile, a petition to stop the sale of the Downtown Car Park presented to Council last September now has more than 9,400 signatures.

While presenting, organiser Shery Gartner expressed shock at hearing of the demolition.

“We need somewhere to park our electric cars too and demolishing it [the carpark] is the opposite of recycling.”

Mrs Gartner told the Transport and Infrastructure Committee she has often thought “Thank God for the Downtown Car Park”.

“I have used it to take my mother in a wheelchair, children in pushchairs, visit Waiheke for the day or weekend and have been proud to take overseas visitors to dinner under shelter using the world class sky bridge.”

Comments on the petition itself express concern over public transport in relation to bus and ferry schedules, with many stating they will simply not be coming to the CBD without the car park.

Gael Baldock is a community advocate who has worked as an architectural contractor for more than 30 years, notably during the downtown building boom of the 1980’s.

She points out every asset by Auckland Council is owned by the ratepayers of Auckland.

“The Downtown Car Park has been paid for by the ratepayers of Auckland. The fact it has been decided it will be sold and then demolished, and has not gone out to a genuine consultation with the people who own it, is criminal.”

Ms Baldock describes the carpark as the most strategic location for a Transport Mode Change Hub.

“It allows a person to go from car to ferry, to train or to bus with ease and there is nowhere else in that area which could do the same.”

The greater Auckland public, including CBD businesses, is being urged to contribute towards the fight against the sale as it stands.

A Givealittle page has been launched to help fund the court action where donations can be made representing a day, a week or a month’s worth of parking.

The Judicial Review is set down for August 5th.



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