Former Whangarei MP Phil Heatley has landed a job at the Northland Regional Council, amid accusations that the council's property portfolio is poorly managed.
Mr Heatley, who was National Party MP for Whangarei for 15 years, on October 12 starts as NRC's "special projects manager", a newly created role overseeing the council's property holdings and dealing with "shared service issues with other Northland councils".
An experienced commercial real estate agent, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said it was high time for new management.
A site that formerly raked in the cash for NRC had been left vacant for well over a year - costing $67,000 in rates, about $480,000 in lost income, $5842 in maintenance, plus other costs.
The agent said this was "a massive loss of income to ratepayers".
"[Councils] often pay top money for property but then those assets do not receive top attention. It makes you wonder whether those assets should be outside council and in the hands of people who know what they are doing," the agent said.
"In the past I've had respect for people that have managed the property ... since those people left it's seemed there hasn't seen that attention to management.
"I get frustrated to see it but once I'm vocal about it I've cut my own throat."
Council knew by May 2013 its former tenant, a Countdown supermarket which leased the site for $34,405.72 a month, was to relocate. The supermarket shifted to Regent in June 2014, leaving behind the asbestos-ridden Kensington building.
Since then council has been in flux over what to do with the site, putting out for tenders, but then not responding to applicants.
Charitable trust NorthAble offered NRC $2.4 million for the Kensington site based on "extensive" talks with developers and real estate agents, said trust chairman Vince Cocurullo. The trust wanted to develop a medical precinct and said two NRC-commissioned capital valuations of $5.5 and $5.75 million needed challenging, as they relied on the premise that the previous supermarket tenant was able to generate $10,000 turnover per square metre each year.
The 9967sq m site's land value was $3.64 million. There could be significant costs associated with dealing with the asbestos problem or removing the building entirely, the agent said.
NorthAble did not hear back after they submitted their tender December last year and subsequently said all the work they had done had been "stolen", with NRC now pursuing the medical precinct plan.
NRC chief executive Malcolm Nicolson confirmed Griffiths & Associates had been hired to investigate the precinct idea, but pointed out the plan had been around for many years.
"The health precinct concept has been a publicly known concept for over two years. It is difficult to see what has surprised NorthAble in September 2015."
Mr Cocurullo said it was the fact that council had never responded to the trust's detailed tender that "surprised" them.
Mr Nicolson said the lack of response to NorthAble's tender was an "administrative error".
Mr Cocurullo said he received a letter from NRC after a story appeared in the Advocate last month. The letter said the trust's tender had not been accepted.