Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Council execs work with stunning views

Did someone order a view? Council staff are finding themselves spoiled for choice after a number of relocations this year. Photo / NZ Herald
Did someone order a view? Council staff are finding themselves spoiled for choice after a number of relocations this year. Photo / NZ Herald

More and more Auckland Council executives and staff are moving into central city offices with million dollar harbour views.

The Independent Maori Statutory Board became the latest council body to shift to waterfront offices last month when it moved into a building in Viaduct Harbour, alongside tenants which include two of New Zealand's richest businessmen, Trevor Farmer and Mark Whyborn.

This followed a move earlier this year by 396 Auckland Transport staff into the HSBC Building at 1 Queen St, where chief executive David Warburton has spectacular harbour views from a 17th floor office.

About the same time, 20 Auckland Transport staff and a consortium of five companies working on the $2.86 billion city rail link moved to the 17th and 18th floors of the 22-storey AMP Tower in nearby Quay St.

It is promoted as having "sweeping views across the Viaduct Basin and Hauraki Gulf".

The cost per sq m of these offices is $520, $513 and $544 respectively, around or above the upper estimate of $505 for 'A' grade central city office buildings and $530 in the Viaduct, according to Colliers International.

Mr Warburton acknowledged he had pretty spectacular views but said he did not sit looking out the window all day.

It had been a pragmatic, commercial decision to move to 1 Queen St this year, he said.
It was in the same building as the New Zealand Transport Agency, was cheaper than other options at Telecom House and AECOM House, and city-based staff had needed to move out of the council's Bledisloe Building for refurbishment in a tight timeframe.

Mr Warburton said the Queen St lease was relatively short, and by the time it ended the future shape of the council body would be clear and a strategic review of all its accommodation could occur.

"Any money we spend on this is money we are not spending on roading. We are trying to minimise our operating costs so we can focus on the transport issues," he said.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said its share of the $820,800 rental cost in the AMP Tower was $140,000 for 20 staff with the remainder being paid by the ratepayer-funded private consortium acting as the technical adviser for the project.

Maori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari has a large, corner office with views of luxury launches in Viaduct Harbour partially blocked by a hedge.

There was no doubt, he said, the offices were as good as anywhere else, after being moved by the council from temporary offices at 396 Queen St.

It was the cheapest of several options, he said, after the council took out a six-year lease to provide some stabilisation.

"What is important is what comes out of the office and the work that the board does," Mr Taipari said.

Auckland Council has also begun moving about 2400 staff into new headquarters in the old ASB Tower at 135 Albert St, which it bought for $104 million in 2012, plus $24.5 million to fit out and $28.9 million of capital costs over the next decade.

It is part of plan to reduce the number of central city council buildings from seven to three and will save $27.5 million in accommodation costs over 10 years. It was the cheapest of three options to house the bulk of city central council staff.

Mayor Len Brown and councillors will move from their respective offices at the Auckland Town Hall and Civic Building to Albert St.

Waterfront Auckland has been located at Westhaven Drive since 2007 in a converted marine building where chief executive John Dalzell has a wonderful view to Westhaven Marina and the harbour bridge in an open plan office space.

Another waterfront tenant is Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), which has occupied two floors in the former Auckland Harbour Board building on Quay St since August, 2011.

Ateed pays annual rental of $247/sq m to house 154 staff. Chief executive Brett O'Riley has an office in an converted meeting room with no outside views.

Elsewhere in Auckland, Watercare Services has moved a short distance from the former Auckland Electric Power Board building in Newmarket to a new four-storey building to bring 500 staff from three locations under one roof.

The council body would not say what the rental costs were under the 12-year lease, citing commercial sensitivity.

Two commercial real estate experts said the HSBC Building, 16 Viaduct Harbour Ave and AMP Tower, where council staff had recently moved to, were 'A' grade buildings, for which the vacancy rates were currently very tight at about 2 per cent.

Justin Kean, research director at JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle), said the three buildings were high profile and attractive and the prices being paid seemed about right.

Cheaper, 'B' grade buildings were available on the city fringes, but even then large spaces were hard to come by, he said.

Colliers International head of research Chris Dibble said there was a lack of prime office space available and the next level of space was getting scarcer in the city.

- NZ Herald

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