Property editor of the NZ Herald

Hapu eyes millions in rent

Maori trust expects to distribute $70m in next decade after end of free occupancy.

Owners of apartments in Scene Three are rallying against a prospective 470 per cent rise in rent. Photo / Greg Bowker
Owners of apartments in Scene Three are rallying against a prospective 470 per cent rise in rent. Photo / Greg Bowker

Local Maori say they have waited 15 years to get the first leasehold rent payments from the 20ha Quay Park waterfront land in Auckland and expect to be able to distribute $70 million in the next decade.

Ngati Whatua o Orakei Maori Trust Board said celebrations were held to mark the start of the flow of capital to the hapu and it expects about $15 million annually in leasehold payments, rising on five-yearly reviews.

But it had taken a long time before they could charge a cent because of a deal struck in 1996 which allowed free occupation temporarily.

"Our financial projections show over the coming 10 years we should be able to distribute $70 million to beneficiaries," the hapu said.

"The big question now being asked of management is how can we double that again in the following decade."

Owners of 164 apartments in Scene Three are rallying against a prospective 470 per cent rent rise for the leasehold land.

One-bedroom unit charges are set to escalate from $1400 a year to $8000 a year and a penthouse suite could cost $24,000 a year - including the leasehold rent which goes to the board, and other fees for the management and maintenance of the building.

Ngati Whatua indicated the new rents were their triumph.

"The hapu has waited 15 years for this day," it said.

An executive close to the hapu blamed the big price rise on factors outside Ngati Whatua's control.

"The Scene rent is impacted by the excess rent charged by the middle lessee, it is not Ngati Whatua's [leasehold] rent which is the problem - and don't forget they have gone for 15 years without paying any annual rent," the executive said.

Former Ngati Whatua chief executive Tiwana Tibble last year praised the land deal, saying it was so effective that it was copied with a navy land purchase deal - part of the hapu's Treaty settlement.

"The railway deal was great and the navy land deal is better," Tibble said.

The hapu explained the history of the land in a newsletter, saying it had been surplus to the Crown's requirements.

"Initially Ngati Whatua sought to obtain approval to build the new Auckland Casino in the old central railway station building," the hapu said.

"Although unsuccessful in its casino bid, Ngati Whatua entered into a joint venture agreement to eventually purchase and then develop commercially the site on a leasehold basis.

"Simultaneous to this Crown purchase, Ngati Whatua also on-sold a 150-year terminating lease in consideration for the first 15 years of rent being prepaid.

"With this commercial lease in place, the lessee then set about to substantially re-landscape, subdivide and market the sale of lessee lots to a variety of purchasers."

A major shopping centre development was planned with Australian retailer giant David Jones as anchor tenant but the retailer did not commit and a major injection of capital funding was required.

"Ngati Whatua provided the capital and thus became an active investor in the project in 1997," the hapu said.

"Thus, Ngati Whatua became directly involved in a range of complex negotiations including the present Vector Arena lease to Auckland City Council, completion of the Britomart tunnel and potential sales to offshore interests.

"The initial strategists who planned this acquisition for Ngati Whatua can only be described as visionary," it said. "Capital growth on the lessor's interest has been astounding, and the first year's rental is predicted to exceed $15 million per annum."

Ngati Whatua o Orakei

*Hapu of New Zealand's largest city.

*Own 20ha Auckland waterfront land.

*New chief executive Rob Hutchison.

*Won a major land dispute arbitration.

*Higher land valuation equals higher rent.

*Expecting $70m income over a decade.

- NZ Herald

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