Only 32% of Aucklanders support $75m bid for council carpark — UMR poll

Businessmen behind the offer say they will meet with Mayor Len Brown on Monday. 

A poll commissioned by the two businessmen behind a $75 million offer for Auckland Council's downtown carpark found 41% against the sale, and 32% in favour.

James Brown and Simon Rowntree (both 39) say they will meet with Auckland Mayor Len Brown and senior council officers on Monday morning to discuss their proposal. 

The pair's offer, which expires at close of business on Friday, is $10 million above prime CBD property's valuation.

“This is an outstanding offer from the council’s perspective: cash, unconditional, with a quick settlement and a legally binding commitment not to increase casual parking prices above the rate of inflation for at least five years.  It is also clearly well above valuation, as evidenced by no other property investor coming forward to match it over the last 24 hours,” a spokesperson for Mr Brown and Mr Rowntree said today.

“James and Simon are very encouraged by the mayor agreeing to meet them and their lawyers so quickly after they made their offer, and by his comments on TV3’s The Nation this morning that he is open to divesting the car-park to help fast-track his Auckland City Rail Link, which they strongly support.”

The spokesperson said Mr Brown and Mr Rowntree were also encouraged the UMR Research poll of 500 Aucklanders that they commissioned.

While more opposed the carpark sale than favoured it, the poll also indicated a majority is much more comfortable with the council divesting the car-park to Auckland businesspeople than Queen Elizabeth Square or Queen’s Wharf to foreign investors, the spokesman said.

The council has proposed a $300 million development of Queen Elizabeth Square and Queen’s Wharf, which would help fund its share of the $2.86 billion, central government-subsidised. City Rail Link.

Messers Brown and Rowntree say selling the downtown carpark building for $75 million would help the square and the wharf say in public hands.

While 62% of Aucklanders oppose selling Queen Elizabeth Square and 56% oppose selling Queen’s Wharf, only 41% oppose the sale of the car-parking building, goes Brown and Rowntree's spin.

When asked which asset they would prefer sold to help fund the rail link, 51% opted for the car-parking building, with just 21% choosing Queen’s Wharf and 15% favouring Queen Elizabeth Square.

When asked who they would be comfortable selling an asset to, 91% said Auckland business interests, 41% said they would be comfortable seeing assets sold to Australian business interests and only 28% would be comfortable with Chinese business interests. Mr Brown and Mr Rowntree are the co-owners of Tournament Parking. Last year, the Commerce Commission opened an investigation into a proposed deal for Wilson Parking (whose parent company is based in Singapore) to buy 60% of Tournament's assets.

In his comments on The Nation this morning, the mayor appeared open-minded about the process to manage the sale, although he suggested it might be protracted.

“James and Simon’s offer expires at close of business on Friday and they will not participate in a protracted process.  This matter will need to be resolved this week,” the spokesperson said.

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