An Auckland business advocate says he will organise former Corrections Minister Phil Goff a huge public audience outside Mt Eden Prison to hear him speak about the highly contentious accommodation tower block he commissioned. Mr Goff just needs to name the time and day.
"I hope Phil Goff takes up the invitation because he is effectively the architect of this much-talked about building. I suspect the Leader of the Opposition won't be so keen given the angry public reaction in recent days. However I can promise him a big crowd if that helps," says Cameron Brewer, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association.
As well as inviting Mr Goff, Mr Brewer says he will ask former Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard and former Chairperson of Auckland City's Planning Committee Councillor Glenda Fryer to attend. He says the previous Auckland City Council can also run but it can't hide on this one.
Mr Brewer says according to Mr Goff back in 2007, the Corrections Department had consulted extensively over the prison redevelopment including "18 meetings with council officers over a period of two-and-a-half years." The project had also been assessed and approved by the previous council's urban design panel and been approved by council-appointed planning commissioners.
"At the time Mr Goff assured the Auckland public that given all the design work, the new buildings would not be an eyesore, nor would they stand out as a prison, and that the old prison would be made more attractive. In 2007 he also claimed the views of Mt Eden from the motorway would only be lost for 1.6 seconds. It seems the public now begs to differ on every one Mr Goff's promises."
Cameron Brewer says on the issue of building height, the previous Auckland City Council's own urban design panel concluded in October 2006 'that the proposed building heights represented a good balance between the department's site-capacity requirement, retention of the heritage features and minimisation of visual impacts.'
"It's unbelievable that Councillor Fryer is now feigning surprise at the height of the contentious tower block visible from the motorway. She was Chairperson of the Auckland City Council's Planning Committee when the tower was signed off.
"Some have been quick to point the finger at the current council and Corrections, but the reality is this is a legacy of the previous council and government. Correspondence shows that Mayor John Banks desperately tried to achieve a better outcome after he was elected at the end of 2007, but sadly it was too late. Everything was locked in and signed off by then.
"Sadly the horse has long bolted. I voiced my outrage about the redevelopment plans over two years ago but such concern seemed to fall on death ears. As a community we've now got to work with the hand we've been dealt with. The outcome is far from ideal but we have to move forward. A public meeting with Phil Goff would help people do just that."
Back in 2008 when former Corrections Minister Phil Goff announced his $216m redevelopment plans for the site, Mr Brewer argued that it was a crying shame that the Government didn't take the opportunity to relocate the prison and sell off the prime central city site for some quality commercial and residential development.
"Two years ago when Mr Goff was boasting about the new facilities to be built at Mt Eden, I predicted that the Labour Government would regret this decision in the future. I suspect the Labour Party and City Vision councillors will now be running scared of any public gathering, but the invitation stands," says Cameron Brewer.
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