Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

New $1b Westgate starts rising

Building about to begin at the giant $1 billion Westgate town development at Massey.

Campbell Barbour (left) and Mark Gunton say trade-store building will start by January. Photo / Chris Gorman
Campbell Barbour (left) and Mark Gunton say trade-store building will start by January. Photo / Chris Gorman

The first buildings are about to go up at New Zealand's biggest new urban centre - the $1 billion Westgate town centre at Massey.

Mark Gunton, the New Zealand Retail Property Group chairman, and Campbell Barbour, the commercial general manager, said that by January they would have begun building the first of their trade stores on the site. A new Mega Mitre 10 and Palmers Garden Centre will be the first up.

Earthmovers now dominate the site, once rural and below hills covered in strawberry fields, but now being prepared to take what is said to be New Zealand's biggest new town centre, equivalent to a new Manukau or Albany.

Foodstuffs has started building its new Pak'n Save next to the centre, which Gunton said once complete would be five times as big as the existing Westgate on the other side of Fred Taylor Drive.

He developed that centre but is now working on the 56ha bare site at the end of the Northwestern Motorway.

His new scheme has been in the planning stages for the past 12 years, following the former Waitakere City Council's first approach to NZRPG to consider a joint venture in 2002.

Holding on to the vision to create the new Westgate town centre took strong determination, he said.

"It's been torture, absolute torture," Gunton said of the protracted planning and consenting process behind the scheme where Auckland Council will spend $215 million in total, including building a 3500sq m $20 million library, 6ha of public open space and parks, an $8 million town square and community buildings and a $5 million underground bus station.

"We've hung tough," he said of his company's commitment to develop the site, which he says will be built much faster than Albany because it's controlled by a single landowner, although NZRPG sold its mall site to listed DNZ, which will develop a 26,000sq m mall, about the same size as Takapuna's.

Infrastructure is now being laid, including drainage, water, wastewater services, data network, electricity - after a $17 million job to underground high-voltage cables beneath the site - roads and footpaths.

Gunton said the earthworks alone cost $20 million.

"It owes me $100 million," he said of the total cost of the project so far, including the land purchase in 2003, holding costs, planning and resource consent costs, infrastructure and lost opportunity cost.

"We have resource consent for 213,000sq m of floorspace with a 30m height limit over the site but the town will grow and change just like all towns grow and change over time."

The rural urban boundary has been expanded in the northwest, opening up big tracts of land next to Westgate capable of allowing development of an extra 20,000 new residences.

Up to 78,000sq m of offices are eventually planned in a scheme which Gunton said was not unlike Takapuna's Smales Farm.

The new town centre scheme will be developed in 11 separate zones, connected by a road intersecting the entire site which is yet to be named.

Barbour says Auckland's northwest lacks a town centre.

"West Harbour, Greenhithe, Hobsonville got built but there was never a town."

A new entry road has permeable concrete in the parking areas so water can seep into the ground.

"It's a low-impact environmental design," said Barbour of the footpaths, lined with a swale system to catch and cleanse runoff before it enters the underground stormwater system.

"Manukau was planned 30 years ago, Albany 20 years ago, now it's Westgate," Barbour said.

"This is not building another shopping centre. It's building a town for a new part of Auckland.

"Some of the detractors have not grasped that the council's investment is not to deliver a new shopping centre but a new metropolitan centre which will be the economic hub for Auckland's northwest, one of the fastest growing locations in the country.

"We're building a town and that's why there's a library, town square and why roads are paved to the same standard and quality as the Wynyard Quarter."

Big ideas out West

Existing

* Westgate Shopping Centre with central carpark, developed 1997/98.
* Built and managed by New Zealand Retail Property Group.
* 85 tenants, 44,000sq m gross lettable area.
* 1500 carparks.
* At the junction of State Highways 16 and 18.

Being developed

* 56ha $1b new town centre.
* Across Fred Taylor Drive from Westgate.
* Infrastructure now being laid.
* Owned by New Zealand Retail Property Group.
* Retail, entertainment, office and civic amenities planned.
* Town will be 2km from end-to-end.
* Initial phase 3 years.

- NZ Herald

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