A full or partial sale of the city's airport, port and water assets are being recommended to Auckland councillors in a no-holds barred review of Super City assets.

Privatisation of golf courses, parks, car-parking buildings and marinas have been mooted by two advisory firms hired by Auckland Council to review the city's assets.

The review is a response to Auckland's rapid growth with the aim of finding alternative financing to rates and debt to pay for infrastructure and maintain core services.

The council could earn $1.4 billion selling Remuera, Chamberlain Park, Pupuke and Takapuna golf courses for housing, with 30 per cent reserved for public space, said Cameron Partners.

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Another money spinner for the council, Cameron Partners said, was selling parks and reserves, valued at $15 to $20 per square metre, surrounding houses valued at $1000 per square metre.

"Releasing as little as 5 per cent of this could potentially equate to $2.25 billion," said the firm, adding an alternative was to sell land in rich areas and acquire land in poor areas.

Suggestions by EY included relaxing the development rules for volcanic view shafts - worth $440 million in the case of the Mt Eden view shaft - and cracking down on sports clubs defaulting on community loans.

Epsom and Glenfield libraries and the Howick community centre - one- and two-storey buildings - offered opportunities for multi-storey intensification to keep the community services and generate capital or leasehold income, said EY.

The privatisation of Auckland Council shares in Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland, worth about $1.4 billion and $1.079 billion respectively, was expected. The sale of these strategic assets is opposed by Mayor Len Brown and other councillors.

EY and Cameron Partners have each assessed a full or partial sale of Watercare, the city's water and wastewater network, valued at about $8.5 billion.

EY suggested 49 per cent of Watercare could be privatised in 2017, with the proceeds used to pay down council debt.

"There are numerous international privately run water service providers...we note that utility companies are typically sought after on international markets," EY said.

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Artwork / NZ Herald
Artwork / NZ Herald

The council could sell its 1412 pensioner houses, with a market value of $225 million, to a social housing provider under a similar Treasury model for selling Housing New Zealand stock, said Cameron Partners.

The firms have recommended outsourcing council IT services, car fleet and printing services.

Chief finance officer Sue Tindal said the objective of the reviews was to look at the council's balance sheet and find ways to reduce the proportion of revenue from rates and maximise the return on the city's assets.

"This is looking at how we deliver on the growth that Auckland is enjoying and that is part of our challenge," she said.

Ms Tindal said the council's finances were in a very good state and there was no need for hasty decisions, but acknowledged the city's growth was putting pressure on the council's ability to build new infrastructure and fund core services.

Chief executive Stephen Town told the Herald in August the council's ability to fund infrastructure was okay for the next three years "but okay is not a permanent and long-term strategy if growth keeps going at the current rate."
Finance and performance committee chairwoman Penny Webster said: "There are no sacred cows. We have a lot of infrastructure to build and need to look at options to do that."

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She said her committee would discuss the reports next Thursday and receive a fuller report in February.

The cost of the two reports was $490,000.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association said pragmatism and common sense has prevailed in the EY and Cameron Partners reports to Auckland Council, presenting a suite of options to fund desperately needed infrastructure in the city.

"We've advocated long and hard that it's time to get Auckland moving and enable it to cope with its growth. The issue has always been around how to fund this. These independent reports, made public today, go a long way to laying out the options the council has before it in regards to realising its assets," said EMA chief executive Kim Campbell.

"Selling off parts of the city's parks, reserves and golf courses may be a step too far politically but options such as reviewing the port model, suggested privatisation or partial privatisation of Watercare and making better use of the city's property portfolio are common sense options. The city could remain the landlord of the port and the major shareholder of Watercare retaining ownership that way.

"We've also questioned why the council is in the business of owning shares in Auckland Airport, when we see a need for the capital to be used elsewhere.

"The council needs to show willingness to sell some of these assets, in order to strengthen its case with central government to also invest in some of these projects. We strongly support the recommendation to use Public Private Partnerships as a way of fast-tracking some of the key infrastructure projects for Auckland," Mr Campbell said.

North Shore councillor George Wood said the reports set out the stark realities that Auckland is facing in financing for the present and future.

"They illustrate the fact that Auckland Council must think laterally when considering the future financial position of the Council.

"It is great to see that we are now looking at the big ticket items including Auckland Council's shareholding in Auckland Airport (22.4%), Ports of Auckland, and the large amount of land holdings and assets across the Auckland region."

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"These reports give a succinct overview of the Auckland Council financial position. It is now the responsibility of Council to map a way forward. Council must look closely at each option and then seek the views of Aucklanders," Mr Wood said.