One of Whangārei's leading commercial real estate agents says the property market in the central business district (CBD) is witnessing buoyancy not seen in the city since the early 2000s.
His comments follow a Business Advocate story in July which reported that the most recent Bayley's Marketbeat vacancy survey showed empty leasehold land in prime commercial locations and an oversized CBD with older stock were just some of the issues stymying development activity in Whangārei.
Commercial and industrial specialist for Harcourts Peter Peeters said: "The amount of empty land of any sort is almost non-existent."
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He claimed there were only 20 vacant retail shops in Whangārei city and five industrial sites vacant.
"There are no empty blocks of vacant leasehold land in Whangārei. The former fertiliser works on Port Rd is owned outright by the Whangārei District Council – this is not a leasehold vacant site.
"While there still are a lot of leasehold properties in the city both the Northland Regional Council and the Whangārei District Council are very focused on development and will be assisting private development by releasing their lessor's Interest on a case by case basis," he said.
"A substantial number of properties over the last few years have already had the lessor's interest sold to the owners of the property. This has allowed many businesses to consolidate their positions and grow the local economy."
The Marketbeat report, which was launched at the end of 2017, stated the commercial and industrial sector was also suffering as more buildings were requiring seismic strengthening or recycling, leaving Whangārei with a high vacancy rate and flat rental growth.
"A significant number of buildings in the city have been seismically upgraded and I have not yet come across one landlord who will not undertake the upgrade work if they have a good tenant," Peeters argued. "Vacancy rates are falling, and rental growth is not flat. Rentals are growing as demand increases."
Peeters said that the industrial vacancies were "virtually zero, and industrial requirements have been exceeding demand for more than two and half years now".
He added that a dip in CBD occupancy rates could not be blamed on a migration of retail tenants to Okara Shopping Centre.
"The dip in the retail sector of the CBD was purely driven by the GFC [global financial crisis]. There has been no extra retail space created in the whole Okara precinct in more than 10 years.
"Two years ago, the retail sector was struggling, especially in the CBD. However, we have seen a substantial change with much more inquiry and uptake of vacant space," Peeters said.