28 Feb 2024

Wellington City Council's Reading Cinemas deal made public

6:56 pm on 28 February 2024
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Reading Cinemas. Photo: Google Maps

Wellington City Council has released the full details of its $32 million Reading Cinemas deal.

The cinemas complex on Courtenay Place has been an eyesore in the central city since it was deemed earthquake-prone in 2019.

A proposal to fix the property was first presented to councillors in October, and was meant to remain private at the time due to commercial sensitivities, but it was leaked.

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

The proposal would see the council buy the land under Reading Cinemas for $32 million and lease it back to its current cinemas owners on a 21-year perpetually renewable lease.

The company would have the first right to buy back the land anytime within the first 15 years of the lease.

The council would be able to sell the land to someone else after the first 10 years of the lease.

The council said the annual rent paid by Reading would cover the council's borrowing and other costs so that it is fiscally neutral to ratepayers.

The deal states the council will only complete the agreement and pay the balance of funds to Reading once it has been satisfied that the new building design meets the civic outcomes they want and has resource consent.

At Thursday's city council meeting, councillors will debate and decide whether the deal should go ahead or not.

Whanau said the council had a responsibility to create a vibrant city centre where everyone felt like they could explore and have fun safely, regardless of their age, gender or ethnicity.

"It is what we were elected to do, and it is what our people want. A key part of that has been revamping the Courtenay Precinct. And a huge component of this is returning the Reading Courtenay complex to its status as the entertainment anchor of Te Aro."

Whanau said it was an extremely good solution.

"I've heard over and over again from Wellingtonians that they want something done about it and are frustrated by the lack of action. This deal seeks to deliver that."

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