Councillor 'pressured' to vote for land sale
An Invercargill city councillor says he felt “unnecessary pressure” to approve the sale of a strategic piece of inner city property.
Cr Ian Pottinger said the proposed sale of the car park on the corner of Don and Deveron streets was put to the council in September 2011, but the deal that went through in January was different to the original proposal.
The land was sold to Calder Stewart.
He was unable to explain how the deal differed because it was discussed in a public-excluded council meeting.
His main concern was he felt that once the deal had changed, the council was put under pressure to make a fast decision, without being allowed the time to discuss the deal properly, he said.
“It didn't give us enough time for us to come back to the next meeting. The decision had to be made there, which I felt put the council under unnecessary pressure to make a decision. It should have been subject to wider discussions and research. It's a very strategic piece of land."
The deal had been made by council staff, and was only presented to council in January for ratification. The deal had an expiry deadline, Cr Pottinger said.
While he could not recall a valuation of the property being put forward, he said the issue was not just about money.
“It is far more than that. It was a strategic piece of land and there was more to discuss other than just money.”
He said he did not believe he was provided with all the information to make a decision. He voted against the sale.
“One thing I've noticed on council is that you have topics of small decisions to make and then there are major decisions which should be treated at a different level. And I feel that this was such a strategic, major decision it should have been given more time.”
Despite the government valuation for the six lots included in the car park being valued at $1.2m, the council sold it for $1m.
Council chief executive officer Richard King said it was not uncommon for council staff to make a deal subject to council ratification. Government valuations were a rough guide, so council had the land valued by an independent valuer.
The valuation was between $320 and $350 per square metre, and was submitted to the council in September. It then sold for $400 per square metre, he said. That meant the council actually sold for more than the accepted valuation.
Mr King said the main difference between the September and January deals was that Calder Stewart's prospective client had changed.
In a letter to the editor published in The Southland Times on Saturday, Niagara Sawmill owner Ken Richardson described himself as “gobsmacked” about the deal.
Mr Richardson said his company had approached the council to purchase land a few years ago, and was told it had to be publicly tendered. “I am appalled by the council's double standards.".
Calder Stewart development director Alan Stewart could not be reached for comment.
Hannah McLeod is an SIT journalism student.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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