Press Statement From Auckland Marina Users Association

Press Release – Auckland Marina Users Association

29 JUNE 2018

A new organisation, the Auckland Marina Users Association (AMUA) is set to vigorously oppose Auckland Council’s agenda of selling community owned waterfront land at Auckland’s marinas.

A formation meeting on 25 June was attended by over 60 representatives from marina users at Pine Harbour, Bayswater, Hobsonville (formerly Westpark), Gulf Harbour and Westhaven marinas who gave their unanimous support to the new organisation and its efforts .

AMUA’s first objective is to create awareness of Council’s progress with a “fire sale” of the City of Sails most valuable and irreplaceable assets – its marinas.

Spokesman for the AMUA, Euan Little, said today that Panuku was operating as Auckland Council’s agent and had already commenced the sale of marina assets using “highly questionable legal and subversive tactics”.

“All of these activities are being conducted under the guise of Council extracting value (undisclosed cash settlements) from ‘non strategic land assets’,” Mr Little said.

“How can Auckland Council justify a ‘non-strategic’ classification for marina waterfront land in the City of Sails?

“Auckland’s marinas, including the adjacent waterfront land, were developed as community assets under Acts of Parliament. In most cases ownership was vested in Public Sector bodies who then entered into lease arrangements for private or community sector development and operation.”

“Public sector ownership was clearly intended to be a safeguard in the governance and preservation of marinas as a community asset.”

“Recently released information has revealed that Auckland Council has been secretly and successfully pursuing this agenda of transferring publicly owned marina assets to private owners and is well advanced in this programme,” said Mr Little.

“The result of this is that a monopoly situation is starting to develop and one developer now owns the Bayswater and Pine Harbour Marinas and is on track to own Hobsonville as well,” said Mr Little.

Bayswater Marina

Mr Little said the transfer of value from the Auckland public to one developer, Mr Simon Herbert of Empire Capital, has already commenced with the “closed door” sale of land at Bayswater marina to him as the incumbent lessee.

“At Bayswater Marina, Mr Herbert was able to acquire Crown owned waterfront marina land on which he now intends to develop several hundred apartments, with Council support,” Mr Little said.
Pine Harbour Marina

In July 2016 Council opposed Empire Capital’s request to allow residential development on a small parcel of waterfront land which the AUP specifically states “may be required for future commercial building”. Council processed a non-notified consent application for commercial development at Pine Harbour Marina and then less than two years after finalising the AUP, supported Empire Capital’s subsequent consent application to allow residential use.

Mr Little said the enthusiasm of current lessees to acquire waterfront marina land was entirely understandable. Simon Herbert’s Empire Capital group purchased land and marina management rights at Pine Harbour for $22 million in 2015. Empire Capital has now put a $70 million value on their recently consented 28 apartment development that is only 3.5m from the marina edge and will straddle across four piers of the marina.
Hobsonville Marina

“Panuku’s dubious tactics at Hobsonville Marina include Council using the Public Works Act to acquire land from itself in order to change the status of the land so they can then sell it to the Lessee, Empire Capital (under the name Hobsonville Marina Ltd) for residential development. Ownership of the land was vested in Council and dedicated, under Act of Parliament, to marina and community use,” Mr Little said.

Council’s Unitary Plan permits multi storey development across the Marina in response to Hobsonville Marina Limited’s wish list prior to purchase of the freehold. It has been revealed that 150-250 apartments are planned. Panuku/Council intended to sell the marina to Hobsonville Marina behind closed doors with no public knowledge. Forced by exposure, a ‘public engagement’ is now underway by Hobsonville Marina and Panuku in what is more a ‘sales pitch’ for public feedback.

“The Mayor and Councillors are either unaware of Panuku’s strategy and tactics or are collluding in this secret strategy. Frankly we do not know whether Panuku has been transparent with Councillors about the implications and the impact of their intentions,” Mr Little said.
Gulf Harbour Marina

“At Gulf Harbour, Panuku intends to bypass the Empowering Act and surrender Council’s freehold ownership of the extensive marina land to the lessee (Jim Speedy’s Covington Group) in exchange for a contrived land and cash exchange,” said Mr Little.

Panuku held three poorly publicised public information meetings at Gulf Harbour over the last month. At those meetings the public was unanimous in opposition to the proposed surrender of marina waterfront land to the current lessee, Jim Speedy’s Covington Group. There was no mention of that public feedback in Panuku’s Board report and in response to a public deputation Panuku’s Chairman made it clear Panuku will not vary its current strategy without Council intervention.

“This transaction is due to go to Auckland Council’s Finance and Performance Committee on 24 July, so we need to act urgently to stop Council signing off on a transaction that the community believes has seriously adverse consequences,” Mr Little said.

“A part of Panuku’s strategy seems to be to withhold information on the basis that it is commercially sensitive. However that approach seems particularly unhealthy and questionable when you consider that Simon Herbert now owns marina waterfront land at Pine Harbour and Bayswater, and Panuku have been negotiating with him on an exclusive basis at Hobsonville since 2015 or earlier.

“Existing leases generally carry very limited development rights and Panuku’s strategy of privatisation will void the existing protection for these community assets. The recent experience at Pine Harbour has shown that once in private ownership the protections that should be afforded by RMA processes and the rules of the AUP are easily pushed aside – with the support of Council’s own planners,” Mr Little said.
Westhaven Marina

“Westhaven Marina is also Council owned so the threat to Westhaven is obvious and worrying,” said Mr Little.

“A non-notified consent for a proposed commercial development adjacent to Westhaven Marina has been granted by Council and is already being advertised raising concerns that Westhaven is also part of Council’s secret agenda.”
What do Councillors know?

“AMUA is really concerned that council can see only higher rates resulting from residential development, and is encouraging high density residential development on marina land that was deliberately and carefully vested in Council to safeguard marinas as a community asset,” said Mr Little.
Mr Little said AMUA wanted to know whether Councillors knew about the secret agenda and whether or not they are in favour of the sale of community owned waterfront land at marinas.

“We will be writing to every single Auckland Councillor, including the members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board, to make sure they are aware of this subversive plan to sell-off of coastal property that was vested in public ownership by Act of Parliament.

“We will also be asking the Mayor directly whether he supports this plan and why Panuku has been allowed to pursue this strategy without public scrutiny,” Mr Little said. “We look forward to the Mayor’s explanation.

“In particular, we want the Mayor to explain why he did not disclose the marina privatisation agenda to the public in his election campaign and how he can possibly justify a fire sale of marina land in the City of Sails,” Said Mr Little.

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