An interesting article appeared prominently in the Herald’s business section this morning. Here’s what part of it said:

Ownership of many properties, including Auckland’s largest inner-city mall, could change as plans for Auckland’s underground rail loop edge closer.

The central city line could pass directly beneath the large multi-level Westfield Downtown on reclaimed land spanning Albert St, Customs St West and Queen Elizabeth II Square.

At the end of last year, Westfield valued the centre at $40.3 million and some property experts now believe negotiations between the council and Westfield could see ownership change.

The low-rise 13,964sq m mall in the waterfront block makes total annual sales of $68.1 million and Westfield has planned to redevelop the building, vastly undersized for the high-rise zoning and valuable location.

Linda Trainer, general manager of Westfield NZ’s shopping centre management, would not say if the company had held discussions with the Auckland Council over selling the property so the rail project could go ahead.

But Westfield was well aware of the rail plans and it had permission to redevelop the site, she said.

The article continues on talking about the the CRL and Westfield’s previous plans but the thing that came to my mind was, why now? Its been known for years that the CRL would have to go through the downtown shopping centre site and from memory Westfields tower plans are what kicked the ARC into gear to really start looking at getting the CRL built.

What we do know is that Auckland Transport is getting ready to lodge the designation which I understand will happen in just a few months time. When that happens we should find out much more detail about what work has been going on behind the scenes to advance the project and that should include information on exactly what properties are going to be needed. Once the designation is granted AT/Council will need to start buying up the properties they need and that is where I think that this article comes in.

I suspect that the Westfield have seeded this story to the Herald for one reason, to help in their negotiations with AT/Council. They know that if they can either increase the value of the site they can demand more cash, alternatively if they can show that their future development of the site is impacted by the CRL then they could get a similar result. At the end of the day I can completely understand this approach and it is what any land owner would do but it is something worth keeping an eye on. I suspect we will start hearing a lot more from affected land owners in the future and there is nothing the Herald will like more than to run stories about people forced out of their homes or businesses due to the CRL.

Proposed Westfield Tower
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  1. these discussions are perfectly normal. whilst there are lots of positives of CRL it creates some major issues with regards to limitations placed on onstruction above the tunnel.

    I would expect every land owner above the CRL to want to be involved in some kind of consultation during the process. Not just to make more money from a potential sale, but more rather to get a handle on the impacts on future development that are very unknown and could impact underdeveloped sites that want to expand. To be in the position to understand this will require a lot of money to engage qualified engineers who are 1. not on the side of the governmenet and 2. who actually know what they are doing.

    waterview was different from the point of veiw thst the type of development in that area isn’t of the scale as the CBD and wont be affected in the same way.

    I dont think that there is any issue with the NZ Herald story (which makes a change) as some of these additional costs, such as purchasing property, are sometimes a lower cost option than on-going arguments with affected parties and is a process that is used a lot.

    1. No problem with the Herald exploring this issue- as you point out this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and I’m sure that AT is well aware of that.

      But what is the point of this article? The headline basically says that it’s the CRL or this tower. The article in no way backs this up. Where is the comment from say an engineer on the issues arising from having a rail tunnel in your basement? The article itself seems to say that the largest issue facing the building of this tower is funding.

      It seems to be a response to a press release with a few lazy phone calls to AT and AC. I wouldn’t call it a ‘discussion’.

    1. This isn’t corruption (unless they’re paying backhanders). There are a number of people in the council’s consenting departments who have more experience in certain types of building or development. For example, Waitakere staff had more experience with rammed-earth “eco” building practices than most other councils, only sensible to ask for one of them if you’re building that type of house. Conversely, that person might not be the best choice to do a high-rise office building. Most builders I know have someone at council they prefer to deal with, simply because they have learnt from experience who is competent to get things done with the least fuss, and who isn’t.

      1. Perhaps the Westfield case isn’t, but the Paget St and Hakanoa St cases where planners were changed for giving the “wrong” answers sure is.

        My apologies to Westfield..

        1. That’s just not true in Hakanoa St case and I don’t know about the other. Tell me Geoff what ‘heritage’ buildings were on the Hakanoa St and Arnold St sites? That’s right a a bastardised bungalow with added bricks in the first case and a little low pitched pseudo modernist one in the second. You fantasise about the heritage purity of these streets. You just don’t like change, give it a few years and you’ll be fighting for these buildings to be kept.

          Do you also hate the ‘Mexican’ effort further up Hakanoa St- bit of fun isn’t it? Or not enough shiplap for you?

          1. Patrick R- Lil’ bit off-topic and angry there I think…

            Who mentioned Arnold St? Although as a “compact city” guy you’d have to oppose 981m2 for family house right?

            For Hakanoa St please see link attached “Council staff swapped in heritage house row”


            As for Paget St, I find it hard to believe you haven’t heard of that case, but out of the 50 or so appearances in Granny Herald here’s a link to a front page story on it-


            As for “fantasising” and wanting to save these buildings in a few years- you’re just being silly now.

            As a matter of interest- I do like Tom’s place on Hakanoa, I wish more architecture in this town was as fun and organic.

    1. rtc,

      You can have different levels of below-ground ownership, similar to – but not the same as – variable height planes of above-ground ownership.

      For example, the tunnel below Newlands in Wellington is owned by Kiwirail (or whoever) and the properties above that (100m or so?) are held in title by their respective owners.

  2. It’s well known that cities with subway systems can’t have high rise buildings. Everything will fall down at the first train passing.

    1. Sotty Gian, I can’t agree with that assertion. New York is a prime counter example. Plenty of skyscrapers and a subway. It is not difficult to run a train tunnel through the lower levels of a building. The tunnels are totally enclosed and if you are really concerned it can be 2 single track tunnels. It might disturb the continuity of a couple of levels of underground car parking but that is a small price to pay. Of course I am thinking of the tunnel(s) being through a new building not the current one. If Westfield suddenly wants to redevelop that would be a bonus. Allow another couple of floors to compensate and everyone wins.

      1. Well that’s why this story is such a beat up. Westfield want to demolish their site and build a new tower there, so the perfect opportunity to design the tunnel and the tower to work in harmony, even build the two simultaneously. This whole ‘problem’ was sorted out a couple of years back.

        No need to allow extra floors, there isn’t a height limit there anyway. Indeed the only issue would be the inability to build a full floor of parking on the second or third basement level, however as there are no minimum parking requirements they’re unlikely to go that deep anyway, especially considering the site is right on top of the country’s biggest transit interchange.

  3. Silly me. Too serious again. My last 2 sentences are still valid though. If Westfield wants out but to be payed for their existing development rights then pay them. Once the railway is in place the site including development rights can be sold off. Still win win.

  4. I’m interested to see what Westfield do with the site actually.

    Could we eventually see the CBD’s first big downtown mall (multi-level)? Will a large departmet store be included (e.g. Myer)?

    Assuming its not just an office tower with some residential units, it would do wonders for the CBD/lower Queent St.

    1. I am doubtful of a big mall or department store on that location, given that Westfield Downtown is one of the most poorly performing Westfield malls in NZ.

  5. @KLK

    When it was built, I seem to recall in the mid 1970s, the principal occupant was the department store Milnes, formerly Milne & Choyce. For some perverse reason they decided to move out of their purpose built premises next to the old BNZ on Queen Street and into the mall. The business went belly up which was quite sad because Milne & Choyce was a pretty good department store, the nearest thing we had to Selfridges. Downtown has always been a charmless dump and Westfield’s long held vigorously anti-PT stance (at least here in New Zealand) hasn’t helped integrate it into the urban/social landscape.

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