28 Feb 2024

Wellington's Reading Cinemas deal debate to go public

4:19 pm on 28 February 2024
The Reading Cinemas building on Courtenay Place in Wellington in April 2020, when it had already been closed for about a year after being deemed earthquake prone.

Reading Cinemas. Photo: CC 4.0 BY-SA / Tom Ackroyd

A closed-door meeting has been held with Wellington City councillors and the council's chief executive on the $32 million Reading Cinemas deal.

The council has proposed to buy the land under the earthquake-prone shopping complex on Courtenay Place and lease it back to the cinemas company that currently owns it.

The deal was first presented to councillors in October and was meant to remain private due to commercial sensitivities, but it was leaked.

Following this, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau launched an independent probe into city councillors Nicola Young, Iona Pannett, Ray Chung, Tony Randle and Dianne Calvert.

A notice of motion by councillor Iona Pannett has been filed to have a public debate on the proposal on Thursday.

Tory Whanau

Tory Whanau. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

RNZ has seen email correspondence from Wellington City Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow that said they planned a discussion with elected members on Wednesday to be prepared for a public discussion on the proposal.

Councillors called for the meeting to discuss the technical details in advance of the debate on Thursday.

Council staff have recommended that Thursday's meeting does stay private, but Whanau was keen for it to be public so everyone understood the plan.

"Officers' advice continues to be that this remains private, but when it comes to the upcoming motion from Cr Pannett to have the debate in public, I will be supporting that so that the public can understand the deal in full."

Whanau said it had been really frustrating to see details leaked about the plan.

"A lot of what has been said about this proposal with Reading is inaccurate and misleading, such as the assertion the deal will have an impact on rates. It is a fiscally neutral proposal."

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