The National Business Review

Council ignores protests, approves controversial Whangarei land sale

Jazial Crossley | Friday October 30 2009 - 07:54am

Defying public outcry, Whangarei District Council is going ahead with its controversial plan to sell one of the city’s largest parks to a property developer in order to build retail space for retailers which have not yet been named.

In June, the council announced that it wanted to sell 5.8ha Okara Park which the Old Boys’ Rugby Football Club has called home for generations to BWH Properties, a subsidiary of Bernard Hill’s Hill Construction.

There were 87 submissions received from locals, 54 of which were opposed and only 30 supported it, with three neutral.

Despite the majority of submissions from the public rejecting the move, council is ignoring the pleas of its ratepayers and plans to complete the sale.

Council is keeping mum on the tenants who have reportedly signed agreements to tenant the site once it is built but mayor Stan Semenoff said the names were “major retailers not seen here before”.

The park is located between Okara Drive and Port Rd. The council has said it will relocate the Old Boys’ Rugby Football Club to a new home where facilities are of similar standard – Whangarei Boys High School is a possibility but discussions are not complete.

The $20 million BWH Properties is paying is reportedly twice the market value.

The council’s chief executive Mark Simpson said that it decided against retaining the land as a sports field because it was not heavily used, and that it didn’t think building its own development on the would be an “appropriate” way to spend ratepayers funds.

Some of the submissions received cited concern that the retail proposed would draw consumer dollars away from the existing retail in the city.

Mr Simpson brushed that off as something which would be dealt with during the resource consent process.