Horowhenua residents were told they would be consulted before public assets were sold or transferred to Horowhenua New Zealand Trust but that now looks unlikely.
The Horowhenua New Zealand Trust (HNZT) – a charitable trust – will take over responsibility for economic development from the Economic Development Board and plans to be involved in a number of projects including land and property development of public assets transferred or sold to the Trust as seed capital.
On 8 November last year chief executive David Clapperton said in a Council press release, “We will soon consult with the community about what property Council should retain. We also need to make sure the community understands that managing this property could include selling it if that is in the best interests of the community.”
Now he says, “The sale or assignment of property assets will not be…requiring community consultation unless the asset in question is deemed a strategic asset, involves an activity that will significantly affect capacity or cost to Council, or is a change to the Long Term Plan.”
“An asset, such as Focal Point Cinema, would not be deemed significant and would therefore not be consulted on should there be a proposal to sell or assign this building,” he said.
However, Council’s significance and engagement policy also states, “Matters…may have a high degree of significance where it is known that the decision will nevertheless generate a high degree of controversy. Council will make judgements on the level of support for those views when determining the significance of a decision.”
Furthermore no consultation will be required for the sale or transfer of 14 public assets in Levin and surrounding area, Foxton, Foxton Beach, Shannon and Depot House on Hokio Beach Road because Council voted to sell them in 2009 at a 5 August Council meeting.
Council’s property strategy states Council assets include 550 properties with a total rateable value, including land and buildings, of approximately $101 million as at 2014 including $28 million of non-core properties.
The strategy also states, “It is also important to understand that a classification of non-core does not automatically mean that the relevant property/facility should or can be disposed of as a range of other factors come into play.”
Non-core property includes commercial buildings and land, endowment property, forestry, motor camps, rental houses, rural leases and a “subdivision” category.
Under the Local Government Act if, “an asset has been unlawfully sold or otherwise disposed of by the local authority; or a liability has been unlawfully incurred by the local authority” the Auditor General may make recommendations to recover the loss or prevent further losses.