Should the city coun­cil be a prop­erty de­vel­oper?

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

Porirua City Coun­cil owns a lot of prop­erty that isn’t do­ing much. Ratepay­ers’ money has been used to make many pur­chases in dif­fer­ent parts of Porirua over the past decade.

Mayor Nick Leggett and coun­cil­lors Euon Mur­rell and John Burke (a coun­cil­lor again since 2013) have been real es­tate agents.

Per­haps they still en­joy the thrill of a prop­erty deal.

The pur­chase of 34 and 36 Steyne Ave in 2011 for more than $1 mil­lion at­tracted crit­i­cism be­cause of the cost to ratepay­ers.

When the New Zealand Post build­ing was bought in 2015, there was more ad­verse com­ment – why was the coun­cil buy­ing a build­ing that was ob­vi­ously bro­ken?

The rea­son­ing that the New Zealand Post build­ing was part of a grand plan to at­tract res­i­den­tial liv­ing in the CBD has not washed with some res­i­dents.

Re­sponses to our ques­tions from Mur­rell and coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Wendy Walker in­volve phrases like ‘‘fu­ture-proof­ing’’, but the fact is this is a coun­cil that re­lies on rates for in­come.

Buy­ing parcels of land for road re­serves, verges and pump sta­tions is un­der­stand­able. But when you have mil­lion dol­lar prop­er­ties and land sit­ting va­cant and un­der-de­vel­oped, how does that help res­i­dents fac­ing yet another steep rates rise?

The main ar­gu­ment is that if the Chal­lenge petrol sta­tion land, Post Of­fice build­ing or the Steyne Ave prop­er­ties were snapped up by de­vel­op­ers, they would be lost to the com­mu­nity for­ever.

Beach ac­cess, car park­ing, re­serves and other ameni­ties we ex­pect in a city would be gone.

But surely Porirua res­i­dents can ex­pect that if their money is used to buy prop­erty, there is some ac­tiv­ity there.

It may cost money to de­velop these sites, but isn’t it bet­ter to spend the money now, or work harder as a land­lord to get some­one to ten­ant it, than for it to sit there, wast­ing every­one’s time and a rates in­come?

Coun­cil critic An­drew Wel­lum, and oth­ers, might be ac­cused of ha­rangu­ing the coun­cil over rates and other fi­nan­cial mat­ters. But when it comes to prop­erty, Wel­lum has a point – the coun­cil should gen­er­ally leave that to the pri­vate sec­tor.

Walker said the Chal­lenge and Post Of­fice prop­er­ties would soon be de­vel­oped. Great if it’s true – and not be­fore time.

But as rates keep ris­ing – a 5 per cent in­crease is pro­jected in the next fi­nan­cial year – could some prop­er­ties be sold to boost coun­cil cof­fers and keep rates down?

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