End of ‘secret’ property deals
The city council motives for buying prime beachfront land will become clearer with the formation of a subcommittee dedicated to the local authority’s purchase and sale of property.
Porirua City Council approved the creation of a property subcommittee last Wednesday, despite protests from some councillors that it was being formed too quickly and with little warning.
Mayor Nick Leggett says there is a public perception of secrecy over council land purchases, such as the $1.225 million Titahi Bay property approved last week and the $1.125m purchase of a home in Plimmerton last year.
Past acquisitions have been made to ensure permanent public access to beaches, watersides and parkland, Mr Leggett says.
Preventing ugly beachside developments is also a motive, he says. Other purchases are infrastructural, such as allowing the council to establish sewerage pumping stations.
The council has allowed $25m in its long term plan for land purchases in the coming decade.
The new property subcommittee, made up of councillors Ken Douglas, Tim Sheppard and Rob Rangi, and one external real estate expert, will meet whenever a purchase or sale opportunity is identified by council staff.
It will be able to move quickly to bid on properties, but purchase approval will still be needed by the full council.
Selling council land will be a significant part of the council’s workload and will free up money for more purchases, Mr Leggett says.
Renting out houses on councilowned sites will also help the council get a return off the land, he says.
Councillor Liz Kelly questioned the suddenness with which the subcommittee was proposed.
‘‘It’s blown me away that we’ve just reviewed our committee structure and now it’s here in full council and you want a decision tonight,’’ she said.
Ms Kelly also questioned why five members of the council with real estate expertise should not sit on the committee.
‘‘I just don’t see the rationale that we would omit to have these people with those skills to sit at this committee and yet we’re paying to bring in some external person to bring their skills and paying them $10,000.’’
Councillor and real estate agent Euon Murrell said he believed his industry had high ethical standards and he was tired of being ‘‘ crucified and pilloried’’ because of conflict of interest worries.
Mr Leggett said the council was in the business of perceptions, so any potential conflicts of interest had to be avoided.
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