Published 5 September 2018
After receiving a brief report on a marinas strategy on Monday, Auckland Council’s planning committee shambled through a debate yesterday on 3 recommendations & how to replace them with something more appropriate.
Writing resolutions by committee, on the trot, is a no-no for good governance. And planning does, as the word hints, involve aforethought.
Auckland Council has had nearly 8 years to put some thought into marinas policy, and some of its predecessors had plenty of time to ponder policies on them too.
The Bayswater marina’s original developer, the late Martin Jones, spent over 25 years developing the basin and working on plans & consents for a village beside it.
Now Simon Herbert, who bought the Bayswater marina from Mr Jones and has since acquired the Westpark (now Hobsonville) marina and Pine Harbour marina at Beachlands, is pursuing apartment plans for all of them.
Sale opponents form group
In June, users of 5 marinas (including the 3 now controlled by Mr Herbert through Empire Capital Ltd) set up an organisation to oppose what they saw as Auckland Council’s agenda to sell community-owned waterfront land at the marinas.
The Auckland Marina Users Association drew support from users at Pine Harbour, Bayswater, Hobsonville, Gulf Harbour & Westhaven.
Association spokesman Euan Little said in June that Panuku Development Auckland, the council development arm, was operating as the council’s agent and had already begun the sale of marina assets using “highly questionable legal & subversive tactics…. All of these activities are being conducted under the guise of council extracting value – undisclosed cash settlements – from ‘non-strategic land assets’.
“How can Auckland Council justify a ‘non-strategic’ classification for marina waterfront land in the City of Sails?”
At the council committee meeting yesterday, Marina Users Association chair Richard Steel
Users group says define the scope first
Marine users association chair Richard Steel said in the public input section of the meeting the council had come up with a token strategy to enable Panuku to sell marina land.
He said boat use had doubled in New Zealand in the last 20 years, and the new association believed the council should stop marina land sales until it had completed a strategy.
“There’s been a significant erosion of trust in the boating community because of the approach taken so far. Serious consideration should be given to the independence of those scoping because both the council & Panuku are conflicted.”
He said scant consideration had been given to feedback, and this feedback from users wasn’t reflected in reports before the council.
Mr Steel said the council’s first task should be to define the scope of its inquiry, then set a timeline. He said Auckland had 12 marinas, all community assets & paid for by users, and they had waiting lists for marina berths, but the council was only looking at how to deal with those in which it had an interest, although the council had control of waterfront activity: “How can you rule out 50% of the marinas in Auckland and call it a strategic plan when council has control of all these functions?”
Mr Steel said Nelson City Council had formulated a marina strategy in about 6 months last year, and it was a good document: “It actually combines marina strategy with placemaking strategy. It’s quite a visionary document. It was also conducted by an external supplier. Interestingly in Nelson, they concluded there was a better outcome for Nelson if they retained ownership of the marina.”
Council debt iceberg in background
Perhaps with the council’s high debt level, and the requirement on Panuku to achieve $100 million/year of land sales, mayor Phil Goff asked Mr Steel where the costs should lie if facilities for marina users were intensified. Mr Steel: “I think that’s an issue really to be addressed by the strategic plan.”
A second question from the mayor: “To the extent there is a private use of marinas, to what extent do you think the users are prepared to bear a fair share of the costs of that development?”
Mr Steel said that, under lease arrangements, berth holders paid for parking and would be responsible for redevelopment of the marine infrastructure.
Newman says start with empowering acts
Cllr Daniel Newman added, during debate, that the overlay of empowering acts for marinas hadn’t been revoked: “The first thing I want is what Parliament said. One, you can’t dispose of boat harbours unless for the purpose of providing boat harbours. Secondly, we have a quite unhelpful situation re these marinas, we have a unitary plan which contradicts what Parliament said in the first place. Third, I do have an issue about the role & scope of Panuku. I don’t engage real estate people necessarily to devise masterplans.”
Deputy mayor Bill Cashmore asked Mr Steel how important the public transport role was at marinas. Mr Steel said one reason put forward for developing apartments at marinas was to get ferry users, but the ferries had plenty of passengers without those apartments.
Cllr Mike Lee said the answer was to consult before a strategy was formulated, and Cllr Desley Simpson tried to get the debate on track toward developing a strategy.
From a workshop on 22 August (council workshops are closed affairs, although at least one local board has recently opened the workshops it holds), staff set out the scope for preparing a strategy, and Auckland Plan strategy & research general manager Jacques Victor said direction could be drawn from the Auckland Plan.
Mr Victor said in his report for yesterday’s committee meeting that “a new set of principles/criteria may require a relaxation of Panuku’s imperative to extract monetary value from these assets, in exchange for broader community & other outcomes”.
As there was a December timeframe for completion, he said there would be limited ability to engage on the approach, so council staff would work with Panuku & Auckland Transport on it.
As the committee scrapped the first 3 recommendations on how to go about this, Mr Victor proposed a committee workshop “to develop a forward programme using the process proposed by staff, the input from the Auckland Marina Users Association and work done by Panuku Development Auckland as a starting point”.
He said no 2 marinas were the same: “To think you can resolve this in one workshop is just not realistic. Decide what you want to see on a marina, that context is set by you and then we get public input. If you do that once, then all the development plans, masterplans, it’s something you don’t have to do 6 times over for each marina. Panuku then have to show how they will accede to those outcomes.”
The point of the exercise: marina land sales
The mayor felt there was no need to write in a clause preventing sales while a strategy was written, as several on the committee were suggesting, “because any sale has to come to the finance committee (the same people as on the planning committee) anyway, and we’d look pretty stupid if we sold anything before having a strategy”.
But that was the precise point which brought the whole question to the fore. Some at the council, and the berth users, saw negotiations underway which would lead to apartment development. So, a full circular argument had been achieved.
Cllr Simpson suggested the council form a steering group with stakeholders, then bring the question back to the planning committee within 6 months.
Cllr John Watson said the council had “sustained some reputational damage” through this whole process, including during public engagement sessions at the Westpark & Gulf Harbour marinas: “At Westpark over 90% of the public who’ve engaged have opposed the sale process & what’s proposed by Panuku. At Gulf Harbour it’s been unanimous opposition of the sale of the marina. The public, the berth holders, the ferry users all saying the same thing, and that’s a very unusual thing.
“Nelson have got a very good strategy. Surely the super-city can come up with a strategy (for council-owned marinas & otherwise), but let’s start with owned.
The outcome of it all is that the committee will hold a workshop to discuss a strategy & a forward plan regarding the future of Auckland’s marinas, and to stall land sales until that work (which mean writing a final strategy) is done.
27 October 2015: Herbert buys Pine Harbour business & land
7 February 2014: Herbert freeholds Bayswater reclamation, says development becomes more viable
6 August 2012: Bayswater hotel – harbour’s business edge or backwater anomaly?
11 March 2009: Court rejects intensive residential development for Bayswater marina land
12 June 2006: Intransigent opposition stops Bayswater marina workshops
27 March 2006: Herbert agrees Bayswater access strip, talks new design round marina
9 April 2003: Council environmental specialist responds to Bayswater judgment article
7 April 2003: Judge uses bizarre reasoning to keep Queen’s chain at Bayswater
2000: Boutique hotel, more apartments in redesign
Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.