Council may sell concert venue

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One of the city's most successful concert venues, enjoyed by thousands of people annually, is under threat after being included on a list of possible council property sales.

Soper Reserve in Mount Maunganui - known unofficially as Brewers Field - has been used by neighbouring pub Brewers Bar in the past four summers. Last year the reserve was used for six festival events and more than 10,000 concert-goers enjoyed the outdoor venue.

But the site has been included in a list of properties Tauranga City Council has identified in its draft 2012-22 plan and deemed under-utilised or no longer required - a decision that has upset Brewers Bar co-owner Glenn Meikle.

"I just can't work this out. We make a Hairy Maclary statue for $800,000 or whatever it is and then we are selling off parks and reserves," he said.

"Around this industrial area it's the only reserve. A lot of people do use it."

Mr Meikle said losing Soper Reserve as a concert venue would be a loss to the area and would mean some bands would be less likely to return to the Bay.

"I'd imagine the council are quite keen to sell the park. They'd rather spend millions on TECT Arena ... [but the bands] are not going to go to TECT. It's [about] that whole marquee thing over summer," he said.

"Here we are, we do six events every year - which, may I add, doesn't cost the ratepayer. And here they are, spending millions and millions on TECT Arena and Hairy Maclary statues, which doesn't make sense to me."

Brewers Bar has been able to use the field free of charge for the summer events but Mr Meikle said the bar would be happy to buy the land and continue with concerts, if the council would help them out.

"Entertainment is one thing which keeps the community happy. Maybe the council could come to us and offer us the land. Hopefully we get first offer on the land, but who knows. Hopefully the council recognises what we do here," he said.

But council property services manager Anthony Averill said the reserve would not be offered to Brewers Bar if it went up for sale.

Some reserves, if put up for sale, would need to be first offered to their original owners. Failing that, Mr Averill said, they would be put on the market.

"It wouldn't be offered to them [Brewers Bar]. It would go on the open market. That's probably how we would sell that one, if it got to that," he said.

Council city events manager Peter Melgren said the ultimate decision on Soper Reserve was difficult because the council needed to evaluate whether the enjoyment of the community on half a dozen days over summer outweighed the benefit of reducing council debt.

The council is proposing to sell 40 properties and enter into partial sales or joint ventures for two others. Other properties include the historic Aspen Tree Reserve in downtown Tauranga and the Phoenix carpark in Mount Maunganui's shopping centre.

The sale of any reserve, if not contested, could happen in about nine months. If contested, it could take up to 18 months.

Public submissions in relation to any proposed council sales close on April 20.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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