The Auckland District Law Society (ADLS) hierarchy wants to sell the $14 million Chancery Chambers in the city's CBD not because it is financially stretched but because the historic structure could demand a "substantial" capital outlay soon.
Joanna Pidgeon, society president, said although the entity was in "robust" financial shape, the heritage building, its single largest asset, might need a significant amount spent on it.
"ADLS remains very profitable with a solid cash reserves and no debt. We are in the strongest and most robust financial position possible. As a heritage building, the Chancery Building has required a significant and ongoing annual maintenance programme and is now at a point where the likelihood of substantial capital works is more likely in the future."
But some lawyer members have criticised the sale idea, saying the proposal has been rushed and that the tenancies could have been better managed.
"We have nowhere near enough information or time to make up our own minds, let alone to influence anyone else," one lawyer wrote to a group of other anti-sale members. "If we wish to influence [the postal vote], we should get together and agree on how to do that."
Serge Round, an Auckland lawyer who has leased Chancery premises, has also spoken out against the sale.
But Pidgeon said there were good reasons behind the sale.
"The fundamental reason for asking our members to authorise [the society] council to sell the building is to limit our exposure to potential risks which could have a detrimental impact on ADLS and our continuing growth, and the desire to ultimately relocate to premises which are fit for purpose, which we would look to buy," she said.
"As a responsible council with the best interests of our members as our number one priority, we would be remiss if we did not consider options around how best we are to manage the Chancery Building as our single largest asset. This proposed sale exercise is intended to future-proof ADLS and ensure we are always able to deliver the best services for our members. We also acknowledge that acting as a landlord is not the core focus or business for ADLS," Pidgeon said.
But she expressed unhappiness about criticism, saying although robust discussions were welcome over such an important issue, some comments were unfortunate and disappointing because they made personal unsubstantiated attacks against the society and council.
Heritage New Zealand lists the property as the AA Mutual Insurance Building and says it is a Historic Place Category 2.
According to information on a site advertising space in the building, Chancery Chambers "stands on the site of Acacia Cottage once home to the late Sir John Logan Campbell and believed to have been Auckland's first European-type dwelling."