Hamilton ratepayers' growing property development kitty should be put to wider use to drive economic development, says Mayor Julie Hardaker ahead of a review that could see such changes.
The city's Municipal Endowment Fund reserve now sits at $9.4m, six months after politicians knocked back an unsolicited offer for the high-performing BNZ Building complex on Victoria St.
The council's $45m commercial property portfolio offsets the amount the council levies ratepayers, and staff are currently looking at options to make better strategic use of its cash.
Mayor Hardaker told the Times she wanted to see less emphasis on financial returns and more on strategic investments, although she baulked at residential development.
"The policy has a set of criteria which must be met, and that's really around return on investment," she said.
"If you want to look at other sorts of investments, they have to marry up to the criteria, that's why we're going to a policy review, there is a potential for change.
"I've been fairly open about the council, if it's embarking on property investments, making those investments strategic."
She said that meant a good return for the city. "I definitely think there is room for that policy review to deliver a better strategic outcome as opposed to simply a financial return on investment . . . If that was the only criteria we'd keep for example the BNZ building because it gives a very good financial return to offset rates."
Asked whether intended commercial development at The Base and Ruakura would continue to put pressure on the central business district, Ms Hardaker said the proposed District Plan and a flurry of recent commercial development had her feeling confident about the central city's future.
"I'm really pleased with the way the CBD is shaping up.
"The central city plan, for the first time, provides some incentives to develop in the CBD. People are wanting to invest here. We're sitting here, there's $40m happening here, $20m here, this one here, still under wraps but looking bloody good," she said, in a nod to recent announcements.
She said the council could have a role in economic development and strategic property investment through that municipal endowment fund, because it was cash that council could use to drive an outcome.
"I don't have the answer because we haven't gone through the process yet."
She acknowledged the importance of people living in the central city, but said while the entertainment precinct was healthy and new developments would grow its already large workforce, she could not see the fund being used to drive residential development in the CBD.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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