Regional council clinches $10.5m office deal

By Michele McPherson

The Bay's regional council has headed off a bunch of interested investors to buy one of downtown Tauranga's feature office buildings for $10.5 million.
Environment Bay of Plenty takes over ownership of the four-level Regency House at the start of Elizabeth St - home of Inland Revenue - by the end of the month.
The prominent building, with the large TelstraClear sign draped on its side, will accommodate the council's 50-strong Tauranga staff - while still retaining some of the existing tenancies.
The Tauranga staff, which has doubled in the past two years, have been spread over three rented buildings in Rata St at Mount Maunganui and their leases were coming up for renewal within the next year.
With its large basement, Regency House is also expected to house the council's land management and harbourmaster's equipment - thus eliminating two existing depots.
John Cronin, Environment Bay of Plenty chairman, said the purchase was an opportunity too good to miss.
"We would never be able to buy a building of this stature in any other economic climate," he said. "Our 10-year plan has something like $20 million for the purchase of a new building to house the Tauranga staff and we have got this for half of that cost.
"We see it as a prudent investment and it will reduce the impact on rates over the long term.
"The land next door (at present a carpark) was valued at the same amount we have bought the building."
Mr Cronin said staff - including the council's transport team - could now work under one roof.
"We don't have to pay three lots of rent and we will receive significant income from the current tenants.

It represents big financial savings."
He said the investment return was 10 per cent.
Environment Bay of Plenty councillors held a special meeting last week to approve the purchase - Regency House was owned by financial services company ING New Zealand, which has been reducing its nationwide property portfolio.
The call went out to ING staff late last year to sell assets and strengthen its balance sheet with an additional $50 million capital.
The company had frozen some of its investment funds.
Environment Bay of Plenty is paying for the building with cash from its reserve fund. Local real estate agents said there were several parties wanting to buy the property, which overlooks the harbour.
Regency House, with up to 50 carparking spaces, has Inland Revenue on the ground floor, a Ministry of Education office on the third level, and TelstraClear and lawyer Terry Kirkham on the top floor.
The first of the regional council staff will move in to the building's second level in June, taking up the office space vacated by consulting engineer, Duffill Watts and King. Patent attorney James and Wells and technology firm NetSmart will stay on that floor.
Duffill Watts, which had room for 35 staff, is moving in to a new office building in Hamilton St.
Mr Cronin said some of the tenancy agreements continued through to 2016, "so the relocation of staff from our Mount offices will be staged over a period of time".
Depending on the outcome of the long-awaited High Court judicial review, Regency House could eventually become the headquarters for Environment Bay of Plenty.
The councillors earlier decided to relocate the bulk of its staff from Whakatane to Tauranga, and originally Environment Bay of Plenty was going to develop a $20 million purpose-built building on the outskirts of the city.
The decision-making process in the relocation plan was appealed by Eastern Bay local authorities, and they are still waiting for the High Court decision nine months after the hearing finished.
Environment Bay of Plenty was planning to relocate about 120 of its 170 Whakatane staff to Tauranga, bringing the total numbers working here in the downtown to about 170.
Mr Cronin said the wait for the High Court decision was frustrating. "We've had to put people's lives on hold - and some staff have left because the review has taken so long ... and the uncertainty that creates."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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