Let time be the decider
When the city council bought a prime piece of Plimmerton real estate last year, the reaction from ratepayers – or at least the noisy ones – was pretty caustic. It will be interesting to see if there’s a similar level of angst levelled at PCC’S current million-dollar-plus offer for 1.7 acres of Titahi Bay beachfront.
We received a lot of correspondence after the Plimmerton deal – $1.125m for 742sqm on Steyne Ave – from folks who felt the council had no business buying up prime real estate for a yet-to-berealised purpose. Yet, when the council shelled out $850,000 later that year for three sites in Whitby there was little more than a ripple.
Perhaps a lot of the angst levelled at the Steyne Ave purchase stemmed from Euon Murrell being the estate agent – though the northern ward councillor played no part in the council’s decision to tender an offer – and the suggestion the council overpaid in a flat market.
Even for those of us who believe the role of a city council is more than just providing core services – vision being as integral a function – buying up beachfront properties seems a touch extravagant on the heels of a draft long-term plan that proposes cuts to library services and rubbish bins.
Of course, strategic land purchases are in the draft plan – it’s just not possible for the community to weigh in on specific transactions. As much as $25.7 million is estimated to be required in the next 10 years, with land purchases funded by loans.
On the Titahi Bay deal, deputy mayor Liz Kelly accepts some people will be ‘‘nervous’’ about the money involved, but she says it is an exciting, rare opportunity that will benefit future generations.
And that’s the tricky thing about strategic land purchases – the benefits seem a long way off while the next rates bill is just around the corner. And who’s to say what guise the local – or not so local – authority will take in 10 years, or even five years, and how its intentions for these assets may differ from the incumbent council? Like bulls to red rags, some critics of the latest purchase will be drawn to the mayor’s former employment with property agent Colliers. We will reserve our anxiety for when it comes time to realise the site’s potential – or not.
The Aotea subdivision isn’t what many of us had hoped for, both in key objectives falling short – RIP business park, affordable housing – and the price PCC got for it. However, you could argue the most important thing was that the council bought the two Aotea Block parcels to begin with, a controversial move at the time, but few would fault the logic now.
Matthew Dallas, Editor