Asset sales hit Hibiscus Coast hard

Going, going…. local board members say Council is proceeding “with indecent haste” to sell the Orewa Service Centre.

Auckland Council’s asset sales are in full swing on the Hibiscus Coast, with the service centre at 50 Centreway Road, and land at 8 Hiwi Crescent in Whangaparaoa (see below) to be disposed of.

The proposal to sell the Orewa Service Centre was first made public in Hibiscus Matters’ March 1 edition. At that time, Council’s head of corporate property, Rod Aitken, told the paper that any sale of the site at 50 Centreway Road was still at the “investigation stage”. However, the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board was asked to endorse the recommendation to sell the site at its meeting last week.
The pace with which things have accelerated has taken local councillors and the local board by surprise. Cr John Watson says the public is being asked to take “a leap of faith” as to how the sale could impact local service provision.

“I have major concerns over the speed with which this disposal has been progressed, the absence of any public consultation and the lack of awareness of the specific circumstances pertaining to Orewa as opposed to some of the other council offices,” he says.

Local board chair Julia Parfitt says Council staff are pushing it really hard. “Council doesn’t normally move so fast!” she says. “Where have the public been involved in this decision?”

The local board is resisting the pressure, saying it has had no time to consult ratepayers on the sale of the asset, which has a Capital Value of almost $29 million.

At last week’s meeting, the board expressed its disapproval of the sale, however the final decision rests with the governing body.

In response to a question by member Caitlin Watson, Mr Aitken said that regardless of the board’s view, Council staff will seek approval for the sale from the Finance and Performance Committee this month. A key reason for the haste (staff originally hoped for a sale by 2021 but have extended this to 2023-24) is that leases that Council holds over several premises expire in the next few years.
“A sale is needed asap – if not immediately,” Mr Aitken said. “This is not rushing it, it’s about moving forward with a programme.”

Orewa Service Centre was the headquarters of the former Rodney District Council, which spent more than $20 million on an extension just prior to the formation of Auckland Council. The 1.9ha site is zoned Mixed Use.

The proposal to sell it is part of Council’s restructuring of its “corporate operating model”. This will see excess office space sold, or leases surrendered. Its regulatory service teams (planners, engineers, inspectors, scientists, customer experience, policymakers, project managers and support staff) will move into three major hubs to be created in Albany/Westgate, the central city and Manukau.

While it is proposed that under this model Hibiscus Coast residents will be able to pay rates and do other simple Council business at local libraries, anything that is more complicated, such as consents, inspections and engineering/technical assistance will mean travelling to Albany or Westgate.

It is also unclear where the Hibiscus & Bays and Rodney Local Boards, which both utilise the Orewa centre for meetings, would relocate to.

Despite this, the report to the local board states that: “any local board office or customer service centre impacted by the proposed closure of a building, will be relocated to a suitable location within the area…”

Mrs Parfitt says that the local board is being asked to take a step into the dark, as details of what will be provided when 50 Centreway Road is sold are so far non-existent.

“We need to know that we have an alternative because that asset was built up by past generations in Rodney and the Hibiscus Coast. The suggestion of renting out space in Westgate or Albany is not likely to be cheap, or convenient for people on the Hibiscus Coast. Another issue is that the service centre in Orewa provides a lot of employment locally.”

The local board has sought confirmation that a purpose built local board office/service centre in the local board area will be operational before 50 Centreway Road is sold and that any new property will meet the local board’s requirements and the needs of the community. It also asked that the Waitemata District Health Board be contacted regarding the site so that the potential for a health facility there can be explored.


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