Auckland Council Land Acquisitions

 

Address to Henderson-Massey Local Board 2nd August 2012

Madam Chair, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

It is now ten and a half months since 109 property owners in Te Atatu South received the shock news that parts of our properties were to be acquired for road widening. We were told the project would “improve traffic flow and accommodate transport options”. We were told WCC had approved the project “ to proceed to the preliminary design stage in 2009”, yet none of us recalled even a titbit of public information having been provided prior to September 2011. Indeed, since then, information and timelines presented to us have proved to be unreliable.

 

An initial accompanying pamphlet put out by Auckland Transport entitled “A Guide to Affected Parties to Land Purchase and Compensation” was far less informative than a LINZ pamphlet available on line entitled “Landowner’s Rights”.

 

Following the gratuitous insult of a 10c offer for access to our land for a 24 month period before AT had paid for it, TPOG (Te Atatu Property Owners Group) was formed. We have held three public meetings, the most recent being on 23 July. Attended by 3 Board members. Concerns are mounting that the good faith so often talked about is in a one-way direction. It seems the good faith of property owners is taken very much for granted by AT and Auckland Council Properties Limited as illustrated in this comment from Michael Riley, Property Specialist, AT. “The time taken for negotiation does largely depend on the property owner’s preparedness to negotiate in good faith.”

 

On 21 December 2011, I was advised by Owena Schuster for AT “Negotiations have commenced with some land owners.” Please advise how many of those land owners have reached agreement some 7 months later. Linda Holdaway, negotiator for ACPL, advised me on 3 February “With respect to the PWA our intention is to reach agreement in all cases, therefore it is our intention to act under S.17. This applies to all the owners.” Now this could cause a problem. 40% of the intended acquisitions are outside the designation in the District Plan. Although this was recognised and at a meeting of the Infrastructure and Works Committee for WCC on 3 February 2010 it was stated “It is noted that currently the Waitakere District Plan has a 2.88 metre designation along both sides of the corridor between Edmonton Road and the motorway interchange. This will need to be uplifted and replaced to reflect the current concept design as it requires a wider designation up to 7 metres,”this didn’t happen.

 

On 9 January 2012 I asked Roger Blakeley, Chief Planner for AC “Does it rest comfortably with AucklandCouncil that its subsidiary ATmade no application for a change in designation in the DP, thereby avoiding public consultation?”

On 17 January he replied “In response to your further questions of the 9th of January 2012, I must reiterate that the proposal to undertake road corridor improvements along Te Atatu Road, is a project that is the responsibility of Auckland Transport. Auckland Council does not get involved in the delivery of these projects unless it is required to do so from a consenting point of view. As indicated in my previous email, it is an Auckland Transport decision whether they choose to use the designation process to acquire land for roading projects. In this instance it is clear that Auckland Transport are using the option of direct negotiation with affected property owners instead of amending the designation.”

 

Essentially Section 17 of the Act is Open Market negotiation. Section 18 is Compulsory Acquisition imposing statutory timeframes on the acquirer. Initial offers coming in from ACPL have horrified our members. There is a huge disparity from $230 per sq m to $1,800 per sq m and all sorts of arguments about mitigating factors. There has even been quibbling about the amount ACPL is prepared to pay for valuation fees to the extent that it sought a Legal Opinion from Simpson Grierson on the meaning of “reasonable.”

 

In my own case I have been particularly proactive. I alerted AT to problems with my garage access the day I got my letter in September. A site inspection was conducted on 11 October. Despite repeated requests for a report I had to resort to a LGOIMA request and received the information on 23 February 2012. To date there have been 4 site visits, yet Sharon Hunter, spokesperson for AT claimed there would be “little or no impact” on residents like me. Having spent 6 hours on site and many further hours in discussion, I find such comments insulting.

 

One of our members is refusing to negotiate on the current acquisition until his land acquisition dating back to 1994 is sorted out on Te Atatu Peninsula. The crime he committed in 2007 was to add the rider to an agreement to sell “and will only sell if I am happy with valuation and compensation”.  What an audacious man! The response from WCC’s lawyer in 2008 was “We cannot include your client in this process if he wishes to qualify his acceptance in this way.” 

 

Board members, you are our advocates. You have been shut out of the process regarding the Te Atatu Road widening. I am appealing to you to make a noise on behalf of the people you represent and insist that in future you are provided with information that allows you to advocate effectively.

 

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