Goodbye, leafy Epsom, for Auckland University’s Education Faculty. Now, powerful rangatira Ngarimu Blair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has reiterated its historical importance, reminding of whakawhanaungatanga and manaakitanga of his tīpuna. Leasehold reform in Britain and big marina advancements in the last few days are also covered in the Business Herald’s new column, offering insight into what those on the inside of the property industry are talking about, what worries them, what they’re celebrating, the rises, the falls and who’s doing what.
Auckland University has long planned to leave that $125 million-plus site, with the Faculty of Education moving to the main town campus and preparations already under way to go.
Ngarimu Blair, deputy chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust, said on Friday: “We are keen to acquire as much of the site as possible given we are the tangata whenua of that area and we have numerous highly valuable cultural sites within and near the site. The University of Auckland has profited enormously off our gifts of land since 1840 and we intend to ensure our people also finally receive some value from our ancestors’ generosity.”
He’s talking of powerful concepts including whakawhanaungatanga and manaakitanga, although he didn’t use those kupu (words) exactly.
Last decade, Ngāti Whātua made its intentions clear. “The University of Auckland has long been aware of Ngāti Whātua’s desire to ‘re-acquire’ as much of its former estate as possible,” Blair said in 2018. The site is subject to the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014.
That land, with a main address of 74 Epsom Ave, has one of the most sacred sites to Ngāti Whātua and also its Te Waiohua relations. The site is called Te Pou Hawaiiki and is where the foundation ancestors placed soil they had brought from the Pacific Islands to anchor themselves in a new land. Other special sites are very near the campus.
One of two early childhood centres there, for children aged from 6 months to 5 years old, has announced its departure. Number 28 takes its name from its address at 28 Kohia Tce.
“Number 28 is scheduled to close when the Faculty of Education and Social Work relocates to the City Campus at the end of 2023,” the preschool’s website says.
The university’s property chief Simon Neale isn’t commenting about the huge change and if any sale is planned. That might change soon.
But the uni has long held plans to leave. The unit has an entire web page about the move: “The university has confirmed that the relocation of the Faculty of Education and Social Work from Epsom Campus to the City Campus will begin in late 2023, in readiness for teaching in 2024.”
What might be developed, what happens to so many beautiful, mature much-loved trees and what approach might Ngāti Whātua take to it?
It’s nearly a century since Epsom was established as a teachers’ training college, starting in 1926.
What happens to the marae at Epsom?
The university says: “The wharenui Tūtahi Tonu will be re-established on city campus in a central location. The wharekai, Te Piringa, will be provided, as will bathrooms. Together these will continue to function as marae space for the faculty.”
Change in that area is a bit of a powder keg for the neighbourhood, a little like the Unitec site over in Pt Chevalier/Ōwairaka Mt Albert where Marutūāhu-Ockham Group is due to start work in January.
Epsom development or change after almost a century of teachers will no doubt be a shock to locals, even though they’ve known about it for years. Auckland Council values 9.5ha of the 15ha site alone at $125m: $100m land, $25m buildings.
So all up, it could be worth closer to $200m.
What might rise?
At 15ha, it would be surprising if a master-planned mixed-use scheme wasn’t what any interested party or parties and authorities would want: the live/work/play model with offices, apartments, terrace housing, retirement living, hospitality, retail, perhaps some medical and community facilities, social housing, affordable housing, reserves, cycling and walking pathways.
Or could some other uses be planned, keeping it green, open and welcoming to all?
This could be an eco-friendly place with solar power at its heart and a significant and deep involvement of tangata whenua due to the whenua (land) history.
Being Crown-owned, it’s ripe for a return to Ngāti Whātua although others might desire it, perhaps the five iwi of the Marutūahu confederation, given settlements have occurred in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), including at Unitec.
If Ngāti Whātua is successful, would it work alone, or extend its close relationship with NZX-listed Precinct Properties? Those two, with vendor Eke Panuku, are collaborating to plan the Downtown Carpark redevelopment. Precinct has also leapt into the residential space lately too, with the team-up with Lamont & Co for its new residential work.
Who else has the money, size and heft capable of achieving a master-planned Epsom scheme with iwi?
Chris Meehan’s NZX-listed Winton Land, with its plans for Sunfield, could be one. Kiwi Property Group, with its extension of residential into Sylvia Park and LynnMall eventually, is another company which does such large-scale work. Fletcher Building’s busy Fletcher Residential is another.
He aroha whakatō, he aroha puta mai. [If kindness is sown, then kindness you shall receive.]
Rishi Sunak and the leasehold shake-up
Leasehold reform is planned in Britain, introducing measures to see leasehold phased out in houses but not flats.
The Conservative Party plans to phase out Britain’s what it calls the “broken” leasehold system and will ban the creation of new leasehold houses, but not flats.
King Charles III outlined the agenda of Rishi Sunak’s Government in the King’s Speech this month, surrounded by lawmakers in the House of Lords.
One reform, drawn up by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, will ensure all new houses in England and Wales are sold as freehold properties, as part of sweeping reforms to phase out the leasehold system.
That can only be the envy of the many around Cornwall Park on leasehold land and those in the Quay Park/Parnell areas - on Ngāti Whātua leasehold land.
All go in marina-land
After much angst over plans at two marinas, some breakthroughs occurred in the last week.
The controversial Kennedy Point Marina on Waiheke Island opened yesterday, offering 181 berths, most of which are sold.
Last Wednesday, Simon and Paula Herbert’s Bayswater marina won approval from Justice Jeff Smith in the Environment Court to develop 64 apartments on their North Shore site.
But that doesn’t mean opponents approved. Richard Steel of the Auckland Marina Users Association told Property Insider why.
“The Auckland Marina Users Association and the Bayswater Marina Berth Holders Association do not in any way support the proposed intensive residential development and have only withdrawn appeals because they are unable to sustain the cost of an extended legal process. An Environment Court appeal now costs over $150,000 and so justice is out of reach for such community groups,” Steel said yesterday.
Anne Gibson has been the Herald’s property editor for 23 years, has won many awards, written books and covered property extensively here and overseas.