‘Strate­gic’ buy-ups about the fu­ture

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

Coun­cil land pur­chases tend to at­tract grief and sus­pi­cion, as seen this April when the city paid $1.125 mil­lion for two beach­side Plim­mer­ton prop­er­ties. As a new prop­erty sub­com­mit­tee meets this month to dis­cuss a large Whitby pur­chase, mayor Nick Leggett and coun­cil chief Gary Simp­son de­mys­tify the coun­cil’s land strat­egy for re­porter An­drea O’Neil. Pataka, Gear Homestead, Colo­nial Knob, North City mall, Aotea block – none of these city as­sets would ex­ist if Porirua City Coun­cil had not se­cured land with the fu­ture of the city in mind, ac­cord­ing to mayor Nick Leggett and coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Simp­son.

‘‘The coun­cil se­cures prop­erty for strate­gic pur­poses. All coun­cils do it, and this coun­cil has done it over a num­ber of decades,’’ Mr Leggett says.

‘‘I think peo­ple should ques­tion these sort of de­ci­sions – they’re ab­so­lutely right to ques­tion them. But there also has to be some sort of ac­knowl­edge­ment that con­tro­ver­sial sales have de­liv­ered sig­nif­i­cant gains.’’

Land deals are of­ten done out of the pub­lic eye, which rouses sus­pi­cion among res­i­dents, the pair ac­knowl­edge. But keep­ing deals out of the pub­lic eye helps keep prices down, and en­sures the coun­cil can jump on op­por­tu­ni­ties quickly.

‘‘We have to be able to re­spond to op­por­tu­ni­ties and a lengthy con­sul­ta­tion process would de­stroy that,’’ Mr Leggett says.

Pur­chases that are con­tro­ver­sial at the time, like the 1980s pur­chase of the land Pataka now sits on, of­ten later at­tract praise from the naysay­ers, Mr Leggett says. But there are al­ways peo­ple who will quib­ble about any ex­pen­di­tures of pub­lic funds.

‘‘These ar­gu­ments are made by the peo­ple who don’t want to spend any­thing.’’

Land pur­chases are made for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons – 40 per cent are in­fras­truc­tural, like a re­cent Whitby pur­chase to se­cure a sewage pump sta­tion.

The plan for the Plim­mer­ton pur­chase and a Ti­tahi Bay beach­side prop­erty yet to be fi­nalised, is to cre­ate water­side parks, in­clud­ing cafes. The coun­cil can­not af­ford to cre­ate the park for sev­eral years but grab­bing the land was vi­tal for fu­ture beach­side ac­cess, Mr Leggett says.

‘‘Those are things that are not al­ways vis­i­ble, but if we fast­for­ward 50 years and look at the growth and in­fill that’s go­ing to oc­cur, hav­ing pub­lic space next to the sea – it’s go­ing to in­crease qual­ity of life.’’

Mr Simp­son says in the 1970s Porirua City Coun­cil planned to buy most of Plim­mer­ton’s beach­side land, which quickly be­came un­re­al­is­tic. The Plim­mer­ton pur­chase was prob­a­bly the last af­ford­able chunk of beach­side land in the sub­urb, with neigh­bour­ing land push­ing $3 mil­lion for 1300 square me­tres. ‘‘ Those prop­er­ties are gone from the pub­lic for­ever.’’

Tak­ing the long view on pop­u­la­tion growth led to the pur­chase, and then sale, of land that be­came North City and the Aotea sub­di­vi­sion, Mr Simp­son says.

A prop­erty sub­com­mit­tee formed in May met last month to dis­cuss a block of Whitby land next to a fu­ture Trans­mis­sion Gully off-ramp, where the coun­cil will need to build ad­join­ing roads, Mr Simp­son says.

The com­mit­tee was cre­ated to give rigour and trans­parency to land pur­chases, he says.

It is made up of Mr Leggett, coun­cil­lors Ken Dou­glas, Tim Shep­pard and Rob Rangi, plus in­de­pen­dent real es­tate ex­pert Ian Pike.

Con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence are coun­cil­lors with real es­tate ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing Euon Mur­rell and Anita Baker, Mr Simp­son says.

City cen­tre: Porirua’s city cen­tre, dom­i­nated by the canopies, is fac­ing a multi-mil­lion dol­lar makeover in the com­ing decade.

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