Opponents failed to stop Precinct buying the civic square

A group has lost its battle to stop the sale of Auckland public land to one of New Zealand's biggest commercial property investors, allowing for part of an $850 million project to be built in the former civic space.

Litigation attempting to stop Auckland Council selling to NZX-listed Precinct Properties the Queen Elizabeth Square at the foot of Queen St opposite the former Central Post Office was unsuccessful, Precinct shareholders learned last Thursday.

There was now nothing stopping the purchase of that public land as part of the 39-level Commercial Bay development, now under way. Precinct will pay $27.2 million for the 1900sq m civic space, the proceeds going to a new or enhanced nearby public space.

Shareholders got an update on the outcome of the case at Precinct's annual general meeting in Auckland, at which chairman Craig Stobo and chief executive Scott Pritchard spoke.


The council has agreed to sell the square to Precinct as part of the development of the Downtown Shopping Centre site.

George Crawford, Precinct chief financial officer, told the Herald that the company had entered into the sale and purchase agreement "but the settlement date is not until early 2018".

Environment Court action was brought by Auckland Architectural Association, Urban Auckland, Walk Auckland, Civic Trust Auckland and Auckland CBD Residents Group.

Joel Cayford, an Auckland Architectural Association board member and spokesman for that organisation, summed up the result.

"The short version of what happened in the Auckland Architectural Association's legal challenge in the Environment Court of Auckland Council's decision to sell Auckland's Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct Properties is simple: they won, we lost, and Auckland loses another piece of public land," Cayford said.

"It pains me to admit that I was somewhat overwhelmed by the tonnage of evidence, and the challenge of mounting a coherent, commensurate and high-quality presence and argument in court," Cayford said.

The Environment Court issued two decisions: a summary of the outcome in the first, full decision was incorrectly worded. It was corrected in a second decision, making it clear that sale opponents had failed in their action.

The first decision said stopping of Queen Elizabeth Square was refused but that was later corrected in the subsequent decision which said objections against the stopping were refused.

Read the full Environment Court decision here: