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Failed 'Bizhub' costs ratepayers $45,000

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014

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A business hub intended to revitalise Porirua's CBD has failed to secure investment, leaving ratepayers $45,000 out of pocket.

Plans for the "Bizhub" in Lydney Place were announced with fanfare by Porirua City Council last March, and the hub was due to open in September.

Investors were sought to help transform the old Pete's Emporium building into a glamorous, multi-storey hub where companies could entertain clients or rent desk space. Design work cost the council $45,000.

Whitireia Polytechnic, Massey University and the Porirua Chamber of Commerce were signed on as partners alongside the council, but no other investors signed up.

Mayor Nick Leggett said the concept was good, but the council had to accept there was little appetite from the private sector.

"Council can't go blowing ratepayers' money where there isn't a commercial need for something in a particular location," he said.

"It's a good lesson for any public sector entity speaking in absolutes about what's going to happen. You've got to float ideas and work with the private sector and the community, and sometimes it doesn't happen."

The Bizhub site sat at the centre of a planned "Streamside quarter".

It was hoped the Bizhub would attract tenants to help transform neighbouring Ferry Lane into a restaurant and bar district.

That was still the dream, and the council would be seeking another tenant for Lydney Place, Mr Leggett said.

"Streamside has always been a long-term aspiration. It won't be Bizhub, but it will be something else."

The Lydney Place site was large, 650sqm, which made it expensive to renovate, council business development manager Chris Lipscombe said.

Twenty potential partners were approached last year and many expressed interest in the Bizhub, but negotiations dragged.

A sticking point for potential partners was the council's requirement for cash investment rather than "in kind" donations of materials or expertise, he said.

A smaller-scale hub targeting the tech industry could still go ahead elsewhere, with Hutt-based broadband firm Smartlinx3 considering a move to Porirua.

No more ratepayer money would be spent on any business hub concept until a partner was secured, Mr Lipscombe said.

"Certainly we're not throwing more money at a process until we're very clear about what it is we want to do."

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- The Dominion Post

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