Coun­cil un­der fire over pur­chases

Hamilton News - - NEWS - Tom Row­land

Hamil­ton City coun­cil­lor James Cas­son has called out Mayor An­drew King and his ‘tight five’ for show­ing a lack of re­spect to ratepay­ers af­ter the coun­cil nar­rowly ap­proved buy­ing four Vic­to­ria Street com­mer­cial prop­er­ties above mar­ket value.

The pur­chase was con­firmed last week by coun­cil, part of a long-term plan to de­velop a cen­tral city river park ad­join­ing the new Waikato Re­gional Theatre.

As part of its 10-year plan, the coun­cil had put aside $7 mil­lion to buy some prop­er­ties. The mar­ket value was $4.3m for the prop­er­ties and coun­cil voted to pay $6.4m, pay­ing a 51 per cent pre­mium above mar­ket value.

“I did not vote for this but the mayor seems to have his tight five in tow, and for the record the mayor used his cast­ing vote to se­cure the pur­chase, jump­ing up stat­ing ya­hoo, I get to use this,” Mr Cas­son said on his pub­lic Face­book page.

“This showed a real lack of re­spect for the vast ma­jor­ity of ratepay­ers who did not want coun­cil to pur­chase and also to­wards the coun­cil­lors who voted against it.”

Coun­cil­lors An­gela O’leary also took to her own pub­lic Face­book page to voice her frus­tra­tion at the pur­chases.

“There were other projects in the Long Term Plan that could have been more im­por­tant to Hamil­to­ni­ans than pur­chas­ing these build­ings,” Ms O’leary said.

“Coun­cil could have in­stead re­duced the rates. I am dis­ap­pointed in this de­ci­sion, but there was enough sup­port to get it over the line. This is now a sig­nif­i­cant city in­vest­ment so we must look af­ter it.”

Mayor An­drew King, in a state­ment, said the ven­dors of the prop­er­ties ap­proached the Coun­cil with a will­ing­ness to sell the sites — an op­por­tu­nity Mayor the coun­cil could not let pass by.

He said short-term ar­range­ments will mean the coun­cil re­tains the build­ings as in­vest­ment prop­er­ties, mean­ing ex­ist­ing busi­ness ten­ants will stay and pro­vide a rev­enue stream.

“Keep­ing the busi­nesses there gives us an in­come from the prop­er­ties while we de­velop plans to in­cor­po­rate these sites into an ex­panded river­side pub­lic plaza,” Mr King said.

“These long-term strate­gic pur­chases are in­tended to pro­vide the coun­cil with a max­i­mum op­por­tu­nity to de­velop and en­hance this im­por­tant part of the cen­tral city.”

“I’m de­lighted these pur­chases will help progress my dream of open­ing up cen­tral Hamil­ton to the Waikato River for the long-term ben­e­fit of our city and its res­i­dents.”

On the Hamil­ton News Face­book page opin­ions were di­vided, but with the vast ma­jor­ity crit­i­cal of the coun­cil pay­ing above mar­ket value and many say­ing none should have been bought at all.

One per­son did say the pur­chase was a smart move by coun­cil.

“Al­though not that happy on pay­ing the price, only the coun­cil can pro­vide for a nicer and at­trac­tive city. A pri­vate landowner will never de­velop land for pub­lic use with­out a plan for an in­come (and nor do they need to). The over­all plan by HCC has my full back­ing,” he said.

An­other said it was in­com­pe­tence on the coun­cil’s part.

“The coun­cil­lors who al­lowed this gross over­spend should be made to pay the ex­tra out of their own pock­ets. Bet that would slow the ex­trav­a­gance,” they said.

Photo / Terry Su

242-254 Vic­to­ria Street, where ten­ants in­clude Mex­ico and Dough Bros, was pur­chased by the coun­cil for $3.75m — 56 per cent more than the $2.4m mar­ket val­u­a­tion.

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