17 Oct 2014

Suburban Auckland may get overhaul

6:57 am on 17 October 2014

The country's first large-scale Urban Development Agency could be set up in Auckland to lead a multi-billion dollar revamp of suburban centres.

Newton in Auckland.

Newton in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

The Auckland Council is considering merging its waterfront agency and property company as it focuses on how to improve run down main streets.

The new development agency is the biggest change being considered in a year-long review of council-controlled organisations, which has so far continued behind closed doors.

Council chief executive Stephen Town has provided a glimpse into the review, which will run for a further month.

Mr Town said the council had looked at similar re-generation agencies in Australia, which put existing council property into joint ventures, with the private sector or government.

"In some parts of Auckland we've got very large land holdings clustered in town centres," he said.

"It's not inconceivable to see $500 million to $1.5 billion developments occurring over 10 years."

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, left, and council chief executive Stephen Town.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, left, and council chief executive Stephen Town. Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

The council is loathe to name possible redevelopment centres at this stage. However there are obvious candidates.

On the same day as the council unveiled the agency proposal, members of Avondale Community Action appealed to the Auckland Development Committee to re-vitalise their neglected town centre.

Avondale includes vacant private sites in the middle of the town centre, run down council-owned facilities, and Housing New Zealand property ripe for redevelopment. Other long-established centres in decline include Mt Albert, Otahuhu and Papatoetoe.

Councillors will give their verdict on the proposal next month and if it is approved, it will go out for public consultation as part of the 10-year Long-Term Plan process.

Mr Town said the work though could begin in earnest before then, under existing council structures. He said the development agency would likely begin life inheriting a portfolio of surplus council property, but would be expected to enhance council finances, rather than be a burden on them.

If an Urban Development Agency is formed, it is expected to result in cuts to management within the existing Waterfront Agency, and Auckland Council Properties Limited. That has yet to be explored.

Mr Town said the only other major change proposed so far in the review of council-controlled organisations, is a down-sizing of Auckland Council Investments Limited (ACIP).

ACIL manages the council's commercial holdings such as Ports of Auckland, part-ownership of Auckland Airport, film studios and an investment portfolio.

The proposed change would bring stewardship of the investment portfolio into the council itself, and reduce management inside ACIL.

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