Wednesday, December 3, 2014

POAL throws public money at Unitary Plan

To get a flavour of just how much public money has, and is being expended by Auckland's 100% ratepayer owned Ports of Auckland Ltd in subverting the Unitary Plan in its own interests, I suggest you take a quick look at POAL's first written submissions. But only if you are ready to read 453 pages prepared for POAL by its lawyers: Russell McVeagh (ALB Dealmaker of the Year, New Zealand Deal of the Year, Australasia Equity Deal of the Year 2013....).

The thrust of POAL's submissions are encapsulated in this text:

This set of submissions strikes at the heart of the Regional Policy Statement part of the Unitary Plan. It ignores the fact that the Resource Management Act requires consideration of potential and future environmental effects. POAL is very clear about what it wants:


POAL has always wanted to expand its reclamation, and it sees the Unitary Plan as its best (and maybe last) opportunity to get Auckland Planning Systems changed, so future reclamation is easy and possible. Before I get into the guts of this posting - which is to ask the question of Auckland Council: "have you given permission to your 100% publicly owned POAL to spend in excess of $1,000,000 of ratepayer money subverting your Unitary Plan?" - another RMA point. My understanding of the environmental effects that the RMA was set up to control (avoid, remedy, mitigate) include cumulative effects. Why would Auckland Council give POAL a general licence to reclaim in future without previously satisfying itself that the cumulative effects of more reclamation are less than minor?

The Guts of this Posting

There's a lot of chat out there about what's going down in the Unitary Plan submissions and hearings process. I'll write more broadly in future. But for now I want to focus on the effort that POAL is putting into supporting its position and submissions at the hearings.

It sounds like POAL is throwing the kitchen sink at it - at ratepayer cost.
Its Russell McVeagh attack team is headed by none other than RMA guru Derek Nolan.
Their presence at the hearing seems calculated to challenge and threaten even before words have been exchanged. The Russell McVeagh legal team heft in cardboard cartons of papers and submissions. Especially intimidating when you're on the receiving end, or making counter submissions.
"Drown the bastards" - is the motto.
And each one of those documents has been carefully prepared by a team of lawyers and checked over by Mr Nolan, no doubt, while the clock ticks away, the hours add up, and POAL pays up, eating into the dividends that might be available to Auckland Council for other purposes.
The irony is - of course - that Auckland Council's team of planners and lawyers more or less know what POAL and Russell McVeagh are trying to achieve, and so they, in turn, spend hours and hours, and thousands of ratepayer dollars on writing other submissions and arguments providing counter or supporting arguments, or who knows what, to POAL's submissions.
Given what I know of Derek Nolan, he'll be having the time of his life. Perhaps a hefty new reclamation permit will be Russell McVeagh's next "deal of the year". I can almost hear POAL executives telling Derek, "fill your boots".

But is all of this really in the public interest? Does Auckland Council exercise any control over POAL through its intermediary Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL)? (NB: It was interesting to note that in the recent CCO review, a wise decision was made to take back into Council's Treasury from ACIL the diversified fund portfolio which I understand amounts to around $200 million - though I would be concerned if this was suddenly tipped into the CRL without public discussion.) Wouldn't it be appropriate for Auckland Council to set some sort of limit on legal actions against Council plans on the part of entities and CCOs it owns and governs?

A question that lies unanswered is this? Why does POAL need all this reclaimed land? How much profit or margin is earned by POAL through being a property developer rather than a port facility? Last week I learned that POAL has done a deal with HOLCIM cement to develop a huge cement and concrete facility on reclaimed port land in downtown Auckland. It appears that an opportunity has arisen (HOLCIM is involved in discussions with Westport and Oamaru and the Onehunga Port about where to locate its facilities and operations which may rely on cement imports from Australia - details unclear so far), for POAL to offer HOLCIM a fantastic deal to relocate to downtown Auckland. Like the deal POAL offered Maersk Shipping - the cheapest berthage rates in Australasia - to get as many ships in the port as possible.

And all of this economic activity is subsidised in some way or another by Auckland. Do we really want an industrialised concrete factory in the heart of downtown Auckland with all the concrete truck movements associated? Do we really need to look out over a growing concrete factory on the waterfront? Isn't it about time POAL paid the true costs of its occupation of public land on the waterfront. Isn't it about time Auckland and Auckland Council stopped subsidising the growth of this cuckoo?

4 comments:

Joel Cayford said...

Correction. Derek Nolan isn't with Russell McVeagh anymore. He's now the barrister for POAL, supported by RM. Doesn't alter the public policy issue, however.

Ports of Auckland Ltd said...

Hi Joel
You’re slightly wide of the mark with your Holcim comments.
Holcim aren’t building a “huge cement and concrete facility” and there won’t be a “growing concrete factory” on the waterfront. Holcim are building a cement silo. It has to be on the waterfront because that’s where the ships come in and Onehunga is too small to take Holcim’s new ships.
To make room for Holcim we moved other activities which don’t have to be on the waterfront. [That’s a continuation of a strategy that’s been taking place for years as we try to squeeze more and more out of the same patch of land.] There will be fewer truck movements from the silo than the previous use. We haven't done a sweet heart deal with Holcim, it’s a commercial deal. Same with Maersk. Times have changed, we’ve moved on and we are now profitable and successful.
On our Unitary Plan approach…
We had a number of concerns with the draft plan as it stood, which is why we put in a substantial submission. We were not the only infrastructure provider to do so.
The changes we’ve proposed to the Unitary Plan would not give us “a general licence to reclaim”.
We are having to put in extra effort at the hearings because (ratepayer funded) Heart of the City opposed every single submission point we made. For example our submission on the electricity transmission corridor overlay which relates only to our site at Pikes Point (Not quite in the heart of the city!). It didn’t matter how minor, or common sense or even relevant to HotC our submissions were, they just opposed the whole lot. How much is ratepayer funded HotC spending on lawyers and consultants?
The Unitary Plan process, as with all RMA planning processes, is designed to ensure that all ideas get heard, proposals are tested, scrutinised and rigorously examined. The independent panel then weighs up competing interests and proposals based on the evidence. Such a process invariably produces a better outcome than a plan imposed without challenge or scrutiny. Surely it is sensible for all parties to participate in an open and transparent forum, so that the end result is a balanced document which has as far as is possible taken into account all views and interests? Are you really suggesting that some parties shouldn’t have a voice because you don’t agree with their views?
If your readers are interested, our evidence to the hearings is also worth a read. I can email you some of the papers if you’d like to put them up on your blog for ease of reference.
Hope this helps clarify our position, but if not you have my contact details and I’m always happy to chat.
Matt Ball
Ports of Auckland

Joel Cayford said...

A very useful comment from POAL confirming the Holcim silo project which further concentrates cement storage on Auckland’s downtown waterfront. Other port cities plan to store cement at inland ports and certainly not in the CBD. (I note POAL provides no detail about earnings from its property development operations.)

I accept the idea that consultation and submission processes generally improve Town and City Planning schemes, however I think the sheer tonnage of paperwork being produced and imported at ratepayer expense by entities that are part of the Auckland Council family is un-necessary and unjustified.

Like mayoral election contest expenses I believe public entities whose objectives include "being a successful business" need financial restrictions that fetter their freedom to heavily rock the public boat, that oblige them to concentrate on issues, and that require them to take on board broadly accepted public policy such as the Auckland Plan in an integrated way, rather than selectively.

mark said...

POAL are also all over whole plan. As a community group, we were up against them on no notification for Restricted Disc activities, which includes rule breaches of permitted activities.

POAL just part of the corporate take over of the UP. When you sit in a mediation with 20 lawyers representing large lists of clients, it's depressing for the 2-3 community groups there.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

POAL throws public money at Unitary Plan

To get a flavour of just how much public money has, and is being expended by Auckland's 100% ratepayer owned Ports of Auckland Ltd in subverting the Unitary Plan in its own interests, I suggest you take a quick look at POAL's first written submissions. But only if you are ready to read 453 pages prepared for POAL by its lawyers: Russell McVeagh (ALB Dealmaker of the Year, New Zealand Deal of the Year, Australasia Equity Deal of the Year 2013....).

The thrust of POAL's submissions are encapsulated in this text:

This set of submissions strikes at the heart of the Regional Policy Statement part of the Unitary Plan. It ignores the fact that the Resource Management Act requires consideration of potential and future environmental effects. POAL is very clear about what it wants:


POAL has always wanted to expand its reclamation, and it sees the Unitary Plan as its best (and maybe last) opportunity to get Auckland Planning Systems changed, so future reclamation is easy and possible. Before I get into the guts of this posting - which is to ask the question of Auckland Council: "have you given permission to your 100% publicly owned POAL to spend in excess of $1,000,000 of ratepayer money subverting your Unitary Plan?" - another RMA point. My understanding of the environmental effects that the RMA was set up to control (avoid, remedy, mitigate) include cumulative effects. Why would Auckland Council give POAL a general licence to reclaim in future without previously satisfying itself that the cumulative effects of more reclamation are less than minor?

The Guts of this Posting

There's a lot of chat out there about what's going down in the Unitary Plan submissions and hearings process. I'll write more broadly in future. But for now I want to focus on the effort that POAL is putting into supporting its position and submissions at the hearings.

It sounds like POAL is throwing the kitchen sink at it - at ratepayer cost.
Its Russell McVeagh attack team is headed by none other than RMA guru Derek Nolan.
Their presence at the hearing seems calculated to challenge and threaten even before words have been exchanged. The Russell McVeagh legal team heft in cardboard cartons of papers and submissions. Especially intimidating when you're on the receiving end, or making counter submissions.
"Drown the bastards" - is the motto.
And each one of those documents has been carefully prepared by a team of lawyers and checked over by Mr Nolan, no doubt, while the clock ticks away, the hours add up, and POAL pays up, eating into the dividends that might be available to Auckland Council for other purposes.
The irony is - of course - that Auckland Council's team of planners and lawyers more or less know what POAL and Russell McVeagh are trying to achieve, and so they, in turn, spend hours and hours, and thousands of ratepayer dollars on writing other submissions and arguments providing counter or supporting arguments, or who knows what, to POAL's submissions.
Given what I know of Derek Nolan, he'll be having the time of his life. Perhaps a hefty new reclamation permit will be Russell McVeagh's next "deal of the year". I can almost hear POAL executives telling Derek, "fill your boots".

But is all of this really in the public interest? Does Auckland Council exercise any control over POAL through its intermediary Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL)? (NB: It was interesting to note that in the recent CCO review, a wise decision was made to take back into Council's Treasury from ACIL the diversified fund portfolio which I understand amounts to around $200 million - though I would be concerned if this was suddenly tipped into the CRL without public discussion.) Wouldn't it be appropriate for Auckland Council to set some sort of limit on legal actions against Council plans on the part of entities and CCOs it owns and governs?

A question that lies unanswered is this? Why does POAL need all this reclaimed land? How much profit or margin is earned by POAL through being a property developer rather than a port facility? Last week I learned that POAL has done a deal with HOLCIM cement to develop a huge cement and concrete facility on reclaimed port land in downtown Auckland. It appears that an opportunity has arisen (HOLCIM is involved in discussions with Westport and Oamaru and the Onehunga Port about where to locate its facilities and operations which may rely on cement imports from Australia - details unclear so far), for POAL to offer HOLCIM a fantastic deal to relocate to downtown Auckland. Like the deal POAL offered Maersk Shipping - the cheapest berthage rates in Australasia - to get as many ships in the port as possible.

And all of this economic activity is subsidised in some way or another by Auckland. Do we really want an industrialised concrete factory in the heart of downtown Auckland with all the concrete truck movements associated? Do we really need to look out over a growing concrete factory on the waterfront? Isn't it about time POAL paid the true costs of its occupation of public land on the waterfront. Isn't it about time Auckland and Auckland Council stopped subsidising the growth of this cuckoo?

4 comments:

Joel Cayford said...

Correction. Derek Nolan isn't with Russell McVeagh anymore. He's now the barrister for POAL, supported by RM. Doesn't alter the public policy issue, however.

Ports of Auckland Ltd said...

Hi Joel
You’re slightly wide of the mark with your Holcim comments.
Holcim aren’t building a “huge cement and concrete facility” and there won’t be a “growing concrete factory” on the waterfront. Holcim are building a cement silo. It has to be on the waterfront because that’s where the ships come in and Onehunga is too small to take Holcim’s new ships.
To make room for Holcim we moved other activities which don’t have to be on the waterfront. [That’s a continuation of a strategy that’s been taking place for years as we try to squeeze more and more out of the same patch of land.] There will be fewer truck movements from the silo than the previous use. We haven't done a sweet heart deal with Holcim, it’s a commercial deal. Same with Maersk. Times have changed, we’ve moved on and we are now profitable and successful.
On our Unitary Plan approach…
We had a number of concerns with the draft plan as it stood, which is why we put in a substantial submission. We were not the only infrastructure provider to do so.
The changes we’ve proposed to the Unitary Plan would not give us “a general licence to reclaim”.
We are having to put in extra effort at the hearings because (ratepayer funded) Heart of the City opposed every single submission point we made. For example our submission on the electricity transmission corridor overlay which relates only to our site at Pikes Point (Not quite in the heart of the city!). It didn’t matter how minor, or common sense or even relevant to HotC our submissions were, they just opposed the whole lot. How much is ratepayer funded HotC spending on lawyers and consultants?
The Unitary Plan process, as with all RMA planning processes, is designed to ensure that all ideas get heard, proposals are tested, scrutinised and rigorously examined. The independent panel then weighs up competing interests and proposals based on the evidence. Such a process invariably produces a better outcome than a plan imposed without challenge or scrutiny. Surely it is sensible for all parties to participate in an open and transparent forum, so that the end result is a balanced document which has as far as is possible taken into account all views and interests? Are you really suggesting that some parties shouldn’t have a voice because you don’t agree with their views?
If your readers are interested, our evidence to the hearings is also worth a read. I can email you some of the papers if you’d like to put them up on your blog for ease of reference.
Hope this helps clarify our position, but if not you have my contact details and I’m always happy to chat.
Matt Ball
Ports of Auckland

Joel Cayford said...

A very useful comment from POAL confirming the Holcim silo project which further concentrates cement storage on Auckland’s downtown waterfront. Other port cities plan to store cement at inland ports and certainly not in the CBD. (I note POAL provides no detail about earnings from its property development operations.)

I accept the idea that consultation and submission processes generally improve Town and City Planning schemes, however I think the sheer tonnage of paperwork being produced and imported at ratepayer expense by entities that are part of the Auckland Council family is un-necessary and unjustified.

Like mayoral election contest expenses I believe public entities whose objectives include "being a successful business" need financial restrictions that fetter their freedom to heavily rock the public boat, that oblige them to concentrate on issues, and that require them to take on board broadly accepted public policy such as the Auckland Plan in an integrated way, rather than selectively.

mark said...

POAL are also all over whole plan. As a community group, we were up against them on no notification for Restricted Disc activities, which includes rule breaches of permitted activities.

POAL just part of the corporate take over of the UP. When you sit in a mediation with 20 lawyers representing large lists of clients, it's depressing for the 2-3 community groups there.....