WHAKATANE District Council is buying the Wally Sutherland site on The Strand for future redevelopment as part of its town centre regeneration programme.

The purchase includes the lessee’s interests in, and the buildings and improvements on, a group of six adjoining properties at the western end of The Strand – at 266, 268 and 270 The Strand; and 39, 41 and 45 McAlister Street.

The council already owns the underlying land, so by buying the lessee’s interests, it is essentially buying back the right to occupy the land, as well as the buildings and improvements.

Settlement will take place on July 1 on a vacant possession basis.

The cost of the purchase is not known but the combined listing price for the properties was $2.15 million.

Council public affairs manager Ross Boreham said the purchase price was not in that ballpark but did “represent what the parties to the negotiations deemed to be a fair value for the lessee’s interests and the buildings and improvements”.

Neither of the Bayleys listing agents, Brendon Bradley or Graeme Colman, would disclose any details of the sale citing confidentiality agreements.

This extended to not being willing to say whether there had been any other parties show interest in the site since it was listed last year.

Council chief executive Steph O’Sullivan said the vacant possession would enable the site to be master-planned for potential redevelopment as part of the Whakatane Waterfront and Town Centre Regeneration programme.

“This project brings together work-streams to deliver a redeveloped wharf and enhanced waterfront and town centre, enabling growth in the district’s tourism and marine economies, for the benefit of the wider community,” she said.

“A business case for the project is in the early stages of being developed for co-funding support consideration by the Government’s Provincial Development Unit (PDU).”

In the coming year funding of $1.56 million will be required for the final stage of the business case and for detailed designed — $450,000 of which will come from the council via the harbour fund and the general rate.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY: The council has purchased the Wally Sutherland site, a group of six adjoining properties at the western end of The Strand and McAlister Street, for part of its town centre regeneration programme.
Photo supplied

The rest of the cost will be met by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.
Ms O’Sullivan said the lessee’s interests in the properties became available following the retirement of legendary local businessman Wally Sutherland, after some 66 years’ involvement in the motor trade.

“Mr Sutherland’s decision to sell his lessee’s interests has created an opportunity to acquire a large, strategically-located site, which will provide a pathway for the council to carry out its placemaking role.

This also signals to the PDU that council is ready to take an active participatory role in the town centre regeneration programme and will have a land-holding available to initiate positive change, on a similar scale to projects which have been successfully implemented in other centres,” she said.

On initially seeking funding assistance from the growth fund to redevelop the town’s deteriorating commercial wharf and waterfront area, the council was encouraged to look more broadly and include development aspirations for the town centre.

Ms O’Sullivan said the council’s Commercial Advisory Board strongly advocated that the lessee’s interests in the properties be secured.

The Commercial Advisory Board, of which Mayor Tony Bonne and councillors Julie Jukes and Nandor Tanczos are members, provides strategic advice on council landholdings and business development opportunities including the council’s harbour lease land portfolio of which these properties were a part. Other members of the board include Tony de Farias, Steve Franklin and Rawinia Kamau.

The purchase is being funded from harbour fund reserves and will therefore have no impact on rates.

The projected balance of the harbour fund after the purchase will be $14.8 million.

A report on short- to medium-term options for the buildings on the site will be prepared for council consideration in the near future.

At the recent annual plan submission hearing Whakatane dentist John Twaddle suggested that long term the site would be ideal for a hotel.

The council said no specific purpose had been identified for the site at this time, but it anticipated there would be a number of possibilities highlighted through the town regeneration master-planning process.