Christchurch council prepared to sell land

WILL HARVIE
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014

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The Christchurch City Council will consider selling land as it grapples with post-earthquake financial pressures.

"We will look at [land sales] in the same way we will look at our whole balance sheet, and anything that we don't need, and serves no strategic purpose, is up for disposal," finance committee chairman Raf Manji said.

A Press analysis of council-owned land within the central business district showed that the bulk was reserves and cemeteries, but that the 14,000 square metres of land beneath the Town Hall, for example, was estimated to be worth $27.95 million at November 1, 2013. The empty 5700sqm Crowne Plaza site next door was said to be worth $16.1m.

If council decided not to repair the Town Hall, it would save $127m in repair costs and perhaps get $28m by selling the land.

The Town Hall land valuation was done by Quotable Value last year as part of revaluation of all of Christchurch for rates and tax purposes. A QV spokeswoman said the valuations were "market-based and assessed in line with land sales".

"It's a good valuation that's meant to reflect market value at November 1, 2013," valuer-general Neill Sullivan said.

Last week's Cameron Partners report, which analysed asset-sale options for the council, did not consider land.

Under a category called "surplus assets" it found "about $40m ‘redundant' land currently being assessed".

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend has said the council is the second largest landowner in the country and should dispose of land to relieve ratepayers.

"Council has made clear that everything is on the table," he said yesterday.

"We think council is taking a very responsible approach."

The council still planned to repair the Town Hall, Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck said, and the only commercial land she would take off the table was social housing.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee declined to comment on land sales.

Another valuable council landholding in central Christchurch was the Art Gallery site, estimated to be worth $19.5m.

At November 1, the Botanic Gardens were worth $12m, made up of $9.6m for land and $2.4m for improvements.

Some council-owned land has already been transferred to Cera for anchor projects.

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