An opportunity to turn vacant land in Woodville into social housing has been knocked back by Horizons Regional Council, with councillors instead looking at its investment potential.
But the person who wanted the housing, Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty, says he is not disappointed at his request being declined and still believes more social housing can be built in the town.
Horizons Regional Council owns various investments and properties, both outright and through its commercial arm MWRC Holdings.
Prominent investments include a 23 per cent stake in Wellington’s CentrePort and the Te Ao Nui building, home to Inland Revenue and Civil Defence operations in Palmerston North.
* Blenheim hotel fears Kāinga Ora homes will increase ‘unauthorised’ parkers
* Election 2020: Housing shortage on voters’ minds at Dannevirke candidates’ debate
* Faafoi open to return of state housing to Wairarapa
It most recently added to its portfolio when it Blenheim hotel fears Kāinga Ora homes will increase ‘unauthorised’ parkers
“>purchased 7 Victoria Ave, the property next to its Palmerston North headquarters, for what Stuff understands was $1.1 million.
But it was the proposed sale of property which got councillors thinking at a meeting on Tuesday.
The council owns 112 and 114 Vogel St, and 66 Burgoyne St, in Woodville.
The properties have a combined market value of $540,000.
Horizons’ acting corporate and governance manager David Neal said the council was approached by McAnulty to see if it had surplus land in Tararua for social housing.
The Woodville properties, located around the council’s service centre in the town, were not used for operations.
Two plots were empty when Stuff visited on Friday, with concrete pads suggesting buildings used to be on the site.
The third property had sheep on it to keep the grass down.
Neal said there were casual discussions about doing something with the land previously, but McAnulty’s request was the impetus for asking councillors for their opinions.
If the properties were declared surplus, the council would have to dispose of the land somehow.
There was no guarantee Kāinga Ora, the Crown agency in charge of the state’s social housing, would buy the land, Neal said.
Horizons ultimately decided against declaring the land surplus, instead wanting to know what options it had.
The vote was tight, with Rachel Keedwell, Allan Benbow, Emma Clarke, Sam Ferguson and Nicola Patrick wanting the land declared surplus.
Councillors John Turkington, Wiremu Te Awe Awe, Fiona Gordon, David Cotton, Bruce Gordon, Weston Kirton and Jono Naylor were against.
Turkington said the council was consistently looking for ways to invest to keep rates bills lower.
Under that thought process, it made more sense for Horizons to build on the land, he said.
Cotton said land prices would only go up in Woodville once Te Ahu a Turanga, the new highway between Woodville and Palmerston North, was finished.
Holding the land until then was a small cost compared to the possible reward, he said.
Patrick said the council should not be land banking, especially if the land was not needed.
The council should start focusing on sustainable investments rather than property, she said.
The properties could be sold to iwi or other social housing providers if Kāinga Ora was not keen, she said.
McAnulty told Stuff he would not criticise Horizons for its decision, as he could understand its stance.
It did not draw away from his effort to get more social housing in Tararua, he said.
Kāinga Ora’s stock in Tararua and Wairarapa was sold to Trust House, which also runs hospitality venues, for $10m in 1999 under a National-led government.
McAnulty understood why a lot of social housing was being built in larger areas like Auckland, but Tararua’s forecast population growth meant it would likely need more social housing.