Auckland's Monte Cecilia Park costs ratepayers more than $50 million

Monte Cecilia Park (Newshub.)
Auckland Council has long held the position that increasing open space in the park will be vital as the city grows and intensifies (Newshub. / file)

A $15 million relocation bill for an Auckland primary school is being blasted as a massive waste of ratepayers' money.

Monte Cecilia Catholic School was reinstated last year as of part of a confidential plan to expand Monte Cecilia Park in Hillsborough.

Its former site has been integrated into the park for what Auckland Council insists will "enhance the park's geological and heritage value".

Figures obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act reveal the cost for moving the school is forecast to be $15,355,000.

This is on top of the $38.45 million which has already been spent acquiring land around the park over the past 10 years.

Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood says the former Auckland City Council plan has been pushed through despite years of community backlash.

"It was arrogant political decision-making by the council at the time," he says.

"It was a really good example of a grandiose boys' project they just decided they were going to ram through.

"To hell with the money and to hell with what people in the community thought."

However, Auckland Council says it cannot be held responsible for the project.

Social policy manager Kataraina Maki says the council has an obligation to honour the contract, which was entered into by the previous administration.  

"Auckland Council has a legal obligation to implement the decisions of the former legacy councils," she says.

"The decisions on Monte Cecilia Park date back more than 15 years. At that time there was a need to provide open space for the community.

"Auckland has grown since that time and pressure on open space, particularly in the central isthmus, has intensified."

The deal

In 1998, the former Auckland City Council agreed to purchase the park, with plans to further expand its holdings.

At the time John Banks was Mayor and David Hay was his deputy. Mr Wood believes the pair pushed the plan to act as "their legacy".

"When John Banks and David Hay rammed this through… [there were] secret meetings, [the] public locked out; it was all done in complete secrecy.

"That's how you can get these things through."

The Monte Cecilia Catholic School site, Liston Retirement Village and 14 residential properties around the park's fringes have since been added to its grounds.

The final concept plan wasn't released to the public until November 2016 and many of its costs still remain confidential.

Monte Cecilia Park land acquisition cost table

Ms Maki says the settlement process for all holdings is yet to be completed.

"Council was unable to provide the financial information requested, because we had not received all invoices and were advised of some remedial works or retention payments, we indicated when it would likely be available," she says.

The final costs for replacing Monte Cecilia Catholic School will be available in July, Ms Maki says.

Who is responsible?

Auckland Council has long held the position that increasing open space in the park will be vital as the city grows and intensifies.

"It has significant archaeological, architectural, arboriculture, geological and heritage values," Ms Maki says, admitting the endeavour was never going to be cheap.

"In preserving open space, we are required to acquire property at market rates," she says.

"The $15 million [spent on the school] included a range of costs, including relocation of the school as well as providing a hall."

However, Mr Wood is calling for greater transparency local government.

"It's taken now, unbelievably seven years to get this information about how much ratepayer's money it cost... that is absolutely outrageous," he says.

"It's the old Auckland City Council that put together a dodgy deal and they're the ones who need to be held to account.

"I hope [Auckland] Council learns something from this and is prepared to be more open with future land acquisitions."

Newshub.

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