Auckland mayoral contender John Tamihere wants the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the deal that saw a prime piece of council-owned central city real estate and landmark skyscraper sold for $3 million.
Tamihere described the sale of the 18-storey Civic Administration Building (CAB) and 5000sqm of land off Aotea Square as "incompetence or corruption".
Last night Mayor Phil Goff told the Weekend Herald he welcomed scrutiny and said the agreement between Auckland Council and private developer Civic Lane, which wants to turn the tower into luxury apartments, was made to save ratepayers $80m and "breathe new life" into the central city area.
Talk of corruption was "absolute rubbish" and he challenged Tamihere to "put up" evidence or "shut up".
Goff said the tower, which was designed in the 1950s and built in the 1960s, remained empty because it was an expensive job "that not too many developers found attractive".
"The building is riddled with asbestos and it has a Category A heritage listing so it is a very difficult project," Goff said.
"This settlement means that building can be restored and refurbished without burdening ratepayers more than $80 million in restoration costs."
Once Auckland's tallest building, the tower, built in the modernist style, was the council headquarters until 2014.
The council agreed to sell the site in 2016 but the deal was only completed this week, when the price was finally revealed.
Tamihere claimed the deal was done behind closed doors with councillors kept in the dark by Panuku — the council's property arm.
He had written to the SFO requesting an immediate investigation and called on Panuku to cease further dealings until after the local elections in October.
"This deal stinks and is either incompetence by officials or worse corruption within the council," Tamihere said.
"The developer has been allowed to sit on one of the most strategic property assets in Auckland city and let it go to ruin.
"This property must be brought back to the market for tenders and value for the ratepayer."
The SFO did not respond to a request for comment.
Clive Fuhr of Panuku Development Auckland said the deal settled on Wednesday. So far the council has received "less than $100,000", with the balance due once the apartments are completed.
Fuhr predicted work would start "within a month" and defended the price:
"The sale comes with obligations we have in place to refurbish the building."
Civic Lane's marketing material promises apartments sized to suit all lifestyles, the ability to join apartments to create bespoke residences and ample parking.
Other selling points include high-quality finishes and furnishings with a choice of three colour palettes, 100 per cent wool carpets, natural stone benchtops, and the latest European appliances.
The building will have an in-house private theatre, gym and pool.
One-bedroom apartments start at $650,000.
There's been talk of various options for the development of the surrounding 5000sq m of land, including a boutique and retail/office/apartment tower, but so far, it appears, nothing concrete confirmed.
Tamihere's stance echoes councillor Mike Lee's, who last week called for a full investigation into why the building had sat empty for half a decade.
Fellow councillor Christine Fletcher described the situation as "shameful", an "outrage" and said it was "unthinkable that this has happened".