Its not a word I like to use. But its one I feel compelled to use.
It was recently reported that the Council has decided to purchase the Golden Bear Brewery building near the Mapua wharf (see http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9547920/TDC-in-talks-to-buy-Mapua-property and http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/9480445/Council-aims-to-buy-Mapua-Wharf-building). This building also is home to two other smaller businesses.
This was a decision that came from a recently held “extraordinary” full council meeting held on 19 December 2013. For those unfamiliar with council meeting processes, “extraordinary” meetings are meetings that fall outside the normal diary of planned meetings. In effect, its an extra meeting called with limited notice.
For those with busy diaries (or other pre-arranged commitments), extraordinary meetings will sometime mean one cannot attend such meetings. For me (and Cr Sangster, Cr Inglis and Cr King) , this was such an occasion. However, with new found confidence in the council’s ability to say no to old spending habits (albeit in hindsight misguided), I felt confident that the staff recommendation to purchase the building would be rejected. But alas, I was wrong. Hence my disappointment.
I might add, that my disappointment is also shared by others that have commented on the first report (above). One commentator (Atrout), called it “Truly a foolish move by TDC. Who is driving this acquisition?”. Another, (Joeblogg), added “I thought the council was meant to be getting back to core business and reducing rates, not being a commercial property developer”.
So why am I against the purchase of the Golden Bear building?
First, the role of council (in my opinion) is to set clear plans, guidance, and regulations that enable desired community outcomes. For that reason there should be no need for council to actively participate in business activities if one is adequately regulating those activities. Such that the market should be deciding what is a successful business venture, not the council.
Secondly, the council owns the land. At some point the lease will expire and at that point the owner of the building will either have to remove the building or sell it (probably at a discounted rate) to the council – subject to the terms of the lease. So why buy the building now, at what will undoubtedly be a much higher value? Why the urgency?
Thirdly, the former aquarium land (not 20 meters from the Golden Bear building) is ripe for development. If any of the existing businesses were to be forced out of their current leases due to the success of the Golden Bear Brewery, they (or other similar businesses) could (and would) establish themselves in this new location, without any loss of perceived amenity value provided by those businesses.
I add “perceived” amenity value, as I really do question what amenity value is offered by some of the other businesses that appear to have been protected by the purchase of the building. For example, I recently observed a UK tourist being turned away at one of the businesses because they did not accepted credit cards. What foreign tourist has a NZ cheque account that enables them to pay by eftpos? The tourist left the shop grumbling in dismay and clearly disappointed in the level (or absence) of service.
Finally, I feel the council needs to be consistent with its message. That message has to be, we are keeping debt down by focusing on core services. If it can’t find $100,000 for Port Tarakohe, how can it find more money for a building in Mapua? A building that may well have ongoing maintenance costs for council. I feel the money would have been better spent developing the aquarium site in Mapua (which is currently vacant and ugly) or paying off debt.
The extraordinary full council meeting also discussed other issues including: (1) the granting of a lease of 5 years to the Wanderers Sports Club and the Tasman Volleyball Association over part of the Brightwater Recreation Reserve for the purposes of operating a Gymnasium and undertaking Volleyball administration, and (2) the appointment of Cr Norriss (as Chair) and Cr Dowler (as Deputy Chair) to the Tasman Regional Transport Committee.
For the agenda and minutes of the extraordinary full council meeting, see http://www.tasman.govt.nz/council/council-meetings/standing-committees-meetings/full-council-meetings/?path=/EDMS/Public/Meetings/FullCouncil/2013/2013-12-19.