Ratepayers get off lightly on Tank Farm

By Bernard Orsman

If you believe the figures, the largest waterfront development in the history of Auckland will cost ratepayers a mere $43 million over the next 25 years - about the same cost of upgrading Queen St.

The 20 to 25-year plan to develop the Tank Farm is a multibillion-dollar project, but it has been structured so that the private sector pays the lion's share of the cost for investing about $500 million into parks, walkways, stormwater and other public infrastructure.

The way that will happen is through hefty development contributions to reflect the huge cost of turning the bleak industrial precinct into a vibrant waterfront village. For every apartment built at the Tank Farm, developers will pay the council $27,727 plus the value of 5.69sq m of the land being developed.

Auckland City planning manager John Duthie said $43 million was "exactly what the figure is from ratepayers".

The Tank Farm was going from an area where nobody lived with very few workers to a major area for the public of Auckland.

"We are building promenades, bridges for public transport and people to walk across. It is all stuff that is perfectly legitimately funded by development contributions," Mr Duthie said. After more than a year of negotiations between Auckland Regional Holdings, which owns 18.5ha of the 34ha Tank Farm, and Auckland City Council, the city council has agreed to pay ARH $70 million for land to be used for public space.

At one stage last year the council was looking at paying about $300 million to get into a 50-50 joint partnership with ARH.

The $70 million the council is paying will largely come from development contributions and help offset $112 million ARH is planning to invest in public infrastructure.

Much of the infrastructure will be for public space, such as the 4.25ha "point park" at the headland jutting into the Waitemata Harbour. There will also be a bill of $20 million-$40 million to clean up toxic waste under the Tank Farm and a lot of work to be done to ensure clean stormwater flows into the harbour. Transport is another big expense, with the proposed Te Wero bridge linking the Viaduct Harbour and the Tank Farm estimated to cost $35 million and talk of an $80 million four-lane underpass for Fanshawe St at Halsey St.

By comparison, 200ha of docklands in Melbourne is being developed over 20 years at a cost of $9 billion with public assets worth $500 million.

Viaduct Harbour Holdings, the private company that owns about 8ha at the Victoria Park end of the Tank Farm, has objected to the level of development contributions to pay for transport.

The company told the Auckland City Council last month that there was an "inbalance" between a contribution of $10,781.53 per household unit equivalent at the Tank Farm compared with $2589.62 in the rest of central Auckland.

The contributions have been tagged for transport contributions to Fanshawe St and the new Te Wero bridge.

Property Council national director Connal Townsend said his body was extremely nervous about steep increases in development contributions and the effects they had, such as contributing towards the affordability of housing.

In other waterfront projects, the city council has paid Ports of Auckland:

* $3.7 million for 1.1ha of land just west of the Harbour Bridge for a new park.

* $4.5 million for Hobson Wharf and water space rights where the Maritime Museum is located.

* $3.05 million for 0.5ha at Teal Park to transform it as the entrance to Tamaki Drive.

The figures

* Tank Farm development $2 billion-plus
* Public infrastructure $504 million made up of:
- Development contributions $349 million
- Auckland Regional Holdings $112 million
- Auckland City rates $43 million

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