Another dodgy deal under the spotlight at Auckland Council

It’s fantastic to see that the Auditor General has filed her teeth and is focussed on how bad local government is.

Of course Auckland Council has to be the worst of them with its continual excessive spending and mounting debt and some – quite frankly – pretty dodgy deals done by its City Transformation team.

Out West the team has been a focal point for a while.

Investigate magazine raised the issue of what deals the Council did with Westgate developer NZRPG, but that fell on deaf ears. Until now…

Auditor-General Lyn Provost has begun an inquiry into Auckland Council’s involvement in a new town centre at Westgate, which is costing ratepayers about $200 million.

The inquiry follows concerns raised with the Office of the Auditor-General about the way the project was established by the former Waitakere City Council and is being managed.

The Westgate town centre at Massey North is a $1 billion public-private partnership between New Zealand Retail Property Group (NZRPG) and council, first mooted in 2002.

It is said to be New Zealand’s biggest new town centre, equivalent to a new Manukau or Albany, set on a 56ha site at the end of the Northwestern Motorway.  

The first stage of Westgate began opening for business at the end of last year when Mitre 10, Palmers Garden Centre and Pak’nSave opened stores.

The council is spending $200 million on roading, parks and community facilities, including a $27 million library and town square.

In a letter to one complainant, Ms Provost said she had received a number of concerns, largely relating to how the line between the public and private benefits of the project have been managed.

“I have decided that it is appropriate to examine and report on these matters, given the public sector’s continuing interest in exploring new ways of working with private sector partners and the novel collaborative arrangements in this project,” she said.

Among the concerns and allegations raised with the Auditor-General are ratepayer cash being used to purchase Westgate Rd through the current Westgate Shopping Centre for about $7 million, the council buying assets to help NZRPG’s financial position to start construction early and NZRPG receiving a council-funded project management fee of 8.5 per cent when the going rate was about 4 per cent.

The Auditor-General has been told the council paid $1000sq m for Westgate Rd that should have been vested free to the council and a “high” price of $630sq m to buy land for the library and town centre.

Sounds like some developers have a cosy relationship with the council and as a result are essentially receiving a subsidy for their building efforts…alternatively called “lining ones pockets” in the vernacular.

Len Brown’s council continues to look sneaky and furtive like him. Dodgy is as dodgy does.

If I was Lyn Provost I’d also be looking into the resurrection and granting of consent to build the whitewater rafting and canoe centre at Manukau…real list of players and Brown fan-bois in that lot.

 

– NZ Herald


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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