Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua Orakei wants to buy Auckland Port land
Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua Orakei has put its hand up if there are to be any talks of Auckland Council selling Ports of Auckland.
The surprise suggestion came from Auckland mayor Phil Goff when talking to port staff this week, possibly involving the council holding onto the land and splitting out the operational element of the port.
However, Ngati Whatua spokesman Ngarimu Blair said his people had long harboured an ambition to buy back their former land and the Waitemata sea bed.
"We have made this known over many generations to every incoming mayor and, more recently, signalled this to Phil Goff before and after the election."
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"If the opportunity arises we would like to buy it – we are the natural owner and we would do the right thing by the city."
He said a consortium could be put together with other iwi and the NZ Super Fund to help the council unlock much-needed capital for the city.
NZ Super Fund spokeswoman Catherine Etheredge said the fund had met with Ngati Whatua on a number of occasions but nothing formal had been discussed.
"We meet with Ngati Whatua and many other potential co-investors on a regular basis and discuss various investment opportunities informally. We are not part of any consortium."
Ngati Whatua Orakei has become an active property player in Auckland, owning about 160 hectares of land on the Tamaki isthmus and developing affordable housing in Orakei.
Its assets include AECOM House and leasehold land in the Quay Park area.
Blair said the iwi understood the wider public interest in the Waitemata "and the desire of many people to keep this precious land in the hands of Aucklanders".
Keeping the council-owned port in public ownership was a hot topic during the local election and Goff campaigned to keep it in council hands.
But previous studies have shown that council ownership is constrained in terms of expanding the port, and private ownership could be more conducive to reclamation and development.
One source this week suggested either a sale of the operating company, or a part sale of the entire entity could raise $500 million for use on other projects.
But Auckland waterfront has also become hot property for commercial and residential use, and the council has had a big hand in the multi-million dollar Wynyard Quarter residential and commercial redevelopment along the waterfront.
Goff has since clarified that the port land was "not for sale" but that relocating it could open up lots of development opportunities.
"My position on the future of the port is exactly what I said during the campaign – I want to progress plans to relocate the port from the CBD and free up 77ha of land for public access to the waterfront."
Development opportunities like the Wynyard Quarter could fund development of that open space, although it could take up to 20 years.
In the meantime Goff said he was "happy to discuss with Ngāti Whātua their role as the mana whenua in potential developments".
The port is said to be valued at $1.1 billion, while a 2013 valuation on the land alone was between $300m and $600m.