One-stop shop

By Alexander Speirs

A new Auckland "shopfront" will co-ordinate investment, reports Alexander Speirs

One of the designs that was considered by Waterfront Auckland for the new hotel.
One of the designs that was considered by Waterfront Auckland for the new hotel.

A new "shopfront for international investors" has been launched to drive funding and spur investors to come up with creative solutions for key Auckland City projects.

David Caselli, General Manager of Business Attraction and Investment at Ateed, says the Auckland Investment Office is a "fundamental piece of infrastructure for the city".

"Auckland Council is one of the biggest asset owners in the city, but those assets aren't necessarily optimised in terms of how they're negotiated into transactions or how they're producing the best economic outcomes for the city," says Caselli.

The Auckland Plan sets out a 30- year vision for the city with most of the funding for major projects slated to be drawn from rates and debt-based funding.

At present, $38 billion of projected work has no clear funding path, with outside investment required to makeup the shortfall.

"The challenge for the Auckland Investment Office is to fund those projects and establish how we need to change the ordering and mix of those projects in order to get that additional funding," explains Casselli.

The Auckland Investment Office steering group includes Auckland Council Investments chairman Simon Allen, Sir John Wells - who is Bancorp chairman - and John Duncan from Goldman Sachs who is also co-ordinating the launch. The investment office will also have staff seconded from across the council controlled organisations (CCO's).

Duncan was a key figure in facilitating the controversial Auckland Convention Centre deal between the Government and SkyCity Group, making his experience particularly attractive to the steering group which sees that deal as a model for non-traditional funding arrangements.

Caselli says the convention centre deal is probably the epitome of the sort of thinking that is needed. "That's a key piece of infrastructure being delivered for the city at no cost."

Over the next six months the first projects will be decided and outside investors engaged to test appetite.

At the top of the list is the SkyPath proposal, a plan to erect a $28 million pedestrian and cycle pathway under the harbour bridge. As part of the council's long-term plan for the city, the project is designated as a zero-cost public-private partnership which would see an outside investor pay for the project and operate on a toll-based model.

The investment office was launched to bring clarity to Auckland City's investment focus.

"What has been happening is that each of the parts of the council made comments, which are effectively signals going out to the market and we haven't got a consistent message going out," says Caselli.

"What we concluded was the we needed one central place where the major investors in New Zealand and the world could go to get the Auckland story and have it told consistently to them."

With more than 30 investors registering their interest in Waterfront Auckland's $1 billion build at Wynyard Quarter, there was a clear signal from the international investment market that New Zealand is an attractive destination to invest in.

"In 12 months time we would like to have secured our future with significant resources from the CCO's, and my personal belief is that we need to have one of these projects banked," says Caselli.

"Some might say that's aggressive, but a sense of urgency and a sense of pace is what New Zealand and the city needs."

"Brisbane built three tunnels in seven years, Shanghai built 10 railway lines when I was there in four years. These are the cities we compete against to be the world's most livable city. That's the challenge.

"There are some sensational transactions within the council family that are not high priority for the city, but are probably very bankable and attractive to institutional and private sector investors."

- NZ Herald

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