Property editor of the NZ Herald

Homeless deterring tenants, say Queen St landlords and letting agents

Homeless on Queen St said to be deterring global tenants
Queen St's homeless are deterring global tenants from opening here, say property specialists.
Queen St's homeless are deterring global tenants from opening here, say property specialists.

Queen Street's homeless are deterring many international tenants from Auckland's central business district, real estate bosses say.

But Michelle Kidd of the Te Rangimarie Charitable Trust said the commercial sector should consider helping the homeless and instead of criticising, should be providing a night shelter.

Greg Loveridge, the Auckland general manager and a director of billion-dollar landlord Robt. Jones Holdings, complained to the Herald about Queen St's homeless.

Robt. Jones owns many buildings in and around Queen St.

They're damaging the city
Greg Loveridge

"People with drug and alcohol addictions need to be cared for by society but they can't be around to impose on others in the street. Major international retail chains won't come here," Loveridge said.

"It makes it a less attractive place for people to shop and less attractive for international retailers to be and therefore deprives the greater Auckland area from increased prosperity."

A group of global retailers, including Louis Vuitton, Channel, Tiffany & Co. and others have opened near the waterfront in recent years.

But Loveridge said many more were not here, and would not come, in part due to the homeless. The city acted as a magnet for those who saw it as the most lucrative place to be, he said.

"People are coming into town from outside of town - for example from west Auckland."

Kidd encouraged more sympathy.

"We must start to look after our people. We need to step back as a society. It's also about the commercial people stepping up for a night shelter," she said. The city did not offer that most basic amenity to start turning this problem around.

Greg Loveridge of Robt. Jones Holdings, says Queen St's homeless deter global businesses from coming to Auckland.
Greg Loveridge of Robt. Jones Holdings, says Queen St's homeless deter global businesses from coming to Auckland.

"Criminalising homelessness is no solution at all. Arresting and punishing people, only then to return them to the streets, is nonsensical," Kidd said.

"The international reputation of Auckland is at risk. New Zealand's largest and most prosperous city should lead the country by example. Visitors to Auckland are greeted by the sight of our homeless on the streets," she said.

Loveridge says complaints about the situation have fallen on deaf ears.

"The council's position is 'if they're not causing any problems, we won't do anything'," he complained.

Robt. Jones Holdings had issues in the carpark of one of its larger Auckland properties, Crombie Lockwood House at 191 Queen St, opposite Hannahs near the Victoria St/Queen St intersection, he said.

"We had a large number of issues outside the Crombie Lockwood and people were threatening tenants are night. They were sleeping in the car park and we had to put in security gates," Loveridge said.

Martin Hudson, a top leasing agent of Metro Commercial, agreed with Loveridge.

"It was previously a major issue for 125 Queen St. It's a beautiful old building which has been refurbished but the homeless used to be under there," he said, indicating sheltered space in the Swanson St side of that building across from Burger King. "It wasn't a good look, having to step over people who had been sleeping there all night and certainly not conducive to the premium corporate image they were seeking"

Colleague Nathan Male indicated frustration.

"Where do I start? Where do I finish?" Male asked of issues with the Auckland CBD beggars. Asked which retailer hadn't come, Male said: "They're not here, so how can you say [who they are]?"

"We've been talking to the big internationals for years and they think Britomart is a carefully management environment because they control [beggars]," Male said.

"Tramps will have a ding-dong screaming match in the streets!"

Beggars were not in Westfield malls or at Sylvia Park and the property specialists asked why the CBD can't be controlled like those properties, Male said.

Viv Beck, Heart of the City chief executive, said her organisation was also worried.

Tramps will have a ding-dong screaming match in the streets
Nathan Male

"We are concerned about the impact of these issues on city businesses, their staff and customers and visitors to the city. It's not only businesses that are affected, locals and visitors alike talk about the impact of these issues on our city streets and our reputation as a city.

"We continue to raise our concerns with council," she said.

Action was also under way to improve emergency accommodation, with targeted rate funding committed to enhance emergency housing at James Liston Hostel, Beck said.

Matthew Cockram, Cooper and Company NZ chief executive, said the Britomart which that business runs, also had homeless but it has security to deal with them.

Matthew Cockram of Cooper and Company which has security to deter homeless people from the Britomart precinct.
Matthew Cockram of Cooper and Company which has security to deter homeless people from the Britomart precinct.

"We do occasionally have what appear to be itinerant people through the precinct," he said, citing demolition of the old Downtown shopping centre.

"Our security team are active 24/7 and are quick to deal with any issues that might come up. I agree that lower Queen St is a challenge at present," Cockram said.

Kevin Marriott, the council's acting general manager of arts, community and events, cited council and Government funding to combat homelessness which he said his organisation was committed to eliminating.

- NZ Herald

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