Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Phil Goff: Auckland Transport's multi-million dollar CBD plan an unnecessary extravagance

Phil Goff wants Auckland Transport to demonstrate the need to move to the upmarket Vodafone building and the cost benefits. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Phil Goff wants Auckland Transport to demonstrate the need to move to the upmarket Vodafone building and the cost benefits. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A planned multi-million dollar move to the central city by Auckland Transport is being questioned by mayoral candidate Phil Goff.

He says if one assessment of leasing the Vodafone building for $5.6 million a year is correct it is an unnecessary extravagance being imposed on Auckland ratepayers.

Staff should not have to work in substandard offices, he said, "but they don't have to work in the flashest part of town in order to do their jobs properly".

Mr Goff said the onus was on Auckland Transport to demonstrate the need to move to the CBD and the cost benefits.

"They have to be answerable, they have to front up and they have to make the case. Not just say we have done this and it's our business. It is not.

It's the ratepayers' business because they are paying for it," he said.

If they could show that moving staff from various locations into the central city saved money "then I'm totally relaxed about it".

Auckland Transport has previously said it will not move most of its staff into the central city unless it saves money.

Today, general manager of communications and corporate relations Wally Thomas would not say if Auckland Transport planned to explain the benefits to council and ratepayers before proceeding with a lease on the Vodafone building.

Nor would he say what timeframe Auckland Transport was working to or if a deal was likely before October's local body elections.

Mr Thomas said there was not a lot more to add to a March statement on the issue.

"We continue to negotiate for the best possible deal," he said.

The statement said rental rates are currently under negotiation and until these are completed Auckland Transport is unable to quantify savings.

"The overriding factor for change is that it will be cheaper/less expensive than current disbursed arrangements. Quite simply, if it is not financially beneficial it will not happen."

Auckland Transport has claimed the savings will be largely driven by reducing its overall office space requirements by about 2000sq m - from about 18,700sq m down to about 16,000sq m.

About half of Auckland Transport's 1500 or so staff are located at the former Waitakere City Council building in Henderson and the remainder across multiple buildings in the central city, Takapuna and Manukau.

The possible move to the Vodafone building, marketed as "exceptional space for corporate occupiers", has already raised concerns by other politicians.

Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson, who is standing for council at October's local body elections, has said any spare cash should go to local transport priorities and unfunded transport projects.

Infrastructure committee chairman Mike Lee said the council accommodation policy was not financially responsible, citing the 18-storey, council owned Civic Building standing empty for 17 months while several council-controlled organisations (CCOs) and the Maori Statutory Board rented buildings on the waterfront.

- NZ Herald

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