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Asset-spoils wishlist may be whittled back

Flagstaff Team

Takapuna’s former library building at No. 2 The Strand

Library and community facilities have been put at the top of a list of Devonport-Takapuna Local Board spending priorities for an expected multi-million-dollar return on the sale of Takapuna’s former library building at No. 2 The Strand.

“We’re all really close, we’ve got projects we all agree on,” said Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chair Ruth Jackson after engineering the juggled list, although the outcome did not reflect the preferred choice of half the board, whose first option was to secure a property to safeguard public access along an eroded section of the Takapuna to Milford coastal track.

That proposed purchase of the Firth property ended up second on the list, with the Francis St to Esmonde Rd cycle and pedestrian pathway in third place and a boardwalk for Wairau Estuary fourth.

The board recommendations will go to Auckland Council’s Finance Committee for its approval on which project gets the proceeds. Panuku, the council’s property arm, must return the money for local use after declaring No. 2 an unwanted asset in the face of community opposition.

Panuku has advised the board it does not consider library facilities qualify for the money because planning on any updgrades are not advanced enough. The Firth property and its future is also clouded in uncertainty.

Should further council advice rule out those two top choices, that leaves the Francis St to Esmonde Rd pathway in pole position to net the proceeds.

Panuku picked the pathway as its preferred project, with the estuary boardwalk second and work on Takapuna Beach Reserve next.

In the face of Panuku’s recommendations, Jackson put up her own motion to the board’s August monthly meeting, throwing the library into the mix. Its future is a core issue for her Heart of the Shore team, which includes deputy chair Jan O’Connor and member Trish Deans. But as it and other community facilities are the subject of ongoing review, its inclusion took some other members by surprise.

Toni van Tonder said Jackson’s motion had arrived just before the meeting and was hard to follow. She then put up her own amendment, favouring the Firth property. This won backing from both former chair Aidan Benanett and George Wood, who paired up last December to champion a board resolution calling on the council to look at buying the property with No. 2 The Strand money.

“I’m flabbergasted that that property is not mentioned in the list of priorities,” Wood told the Panuku officials at the meeting. “The people of this area will be pretty aghast if we don’t get anywhere with that.”

Without the money, the chance to try to secure the track access in perpetuity would go, he said. Developers would step in and “You’ll never get it back”.

Panuku officials cautioned against discussions getting into the value of specific properties, but told the meeting they could add the Firth property into their report to the Finance Committee. They also said they had received expressions of interest in No. 2, which has a rateable value of $2.85 million.

Van Tonder’s amendment to prioritise the Firth purchase was lost on the casting vote of the chair, allowing Jackson to proceed with her library-first list. In the end, the board, ended up voting unanimously in its favour, leading Jackson to claim something akin to consensus, while noting that some projects “may not pass the test at council.”

Board agrees to business-case study on library options

Three options to combine and modernise Takapuna library and community facilities will go through an ‘indicative business case’ (IBC) assessment.

This follows proposals made last month by Auckland Council property arm Panuku, which could lead to the sale of at least one of the existing community buildings, and possibly all three, with the latter funding the development of an entirely new building on the lower floors of a high-rise in the Takapuna town square.

In agreeing to the IBC, the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board – in a lengthy motion drafted by chair Ruth Jackson – threw in a number of conditions, including seeking a plethora of background information and space comparisons and a guarantee that all community groups now housed would continue to be accommodated.

It also asked for Panuku to represent it with all relevant information about retaining the status quo option of keeping the Takapuna Library and the Community Services Building in The Strand and the Mary Thomas Centre around the corner.

Board member George Wood said local people were looking for modern facilities. He feared that instead of delivering a new library in the town centre that would be magical, the opportunity could be lost if board members showed too much reluctance. “We will end up with renewals of $24 million and still end up with a 1980s building in 2050,” cautioned Wood.

Panuku told the board it did not believe the current total of 5000sq m of space across three ageing buildings, with eight kitchens and 41 toilets, was necessary. Its experience in building other new facilities showed they delivered better community outcomes with reduced operational and maintenance costs.

Officials advised that Panuku could not meet the costs of new buildings with the old floorspace and would not do an IBC for this.

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