Far North District Council is consulting with ratepayers across the district about whether to transfer ownership of Russell Wharf from Council to Far North Holdings Ltd (the Council-owned ‘delivery vehicle’ for Council’s commercial activities).
The proposed transfer forms part of the Long-Term Plan (2018-2028) on which Council is currently consulting with ratepayers. The question about whether to transfer Russell Wharf to Far North Holdings ownership is one of 15 specific issues on which Council is seeking ratepayer feedback.
Here is some context and background to Far North Holdings’ involvement with and interest in Russell Wharf.
Far North Holdings already operates Russell Wharf on behalf of the community, under a lease from the Far North District Council. So whether it leases the wharf, or owns it, nothing would change regarding the way it is operated or accessed.It would continue to charge only commercial operators wishing to use the wharf (as it does today). In fact, Far North Holdings’ aim and ambition is to improve and encourage public access to the wharf. It has no interest in charging ratepayers to use the facility.
Importantly: Russell Wharf would still be a ratepayer-owned facility, simply stewarded by Far North Holdings instead of Council.
Far North Holdings proposes to buy Russell Wharf off Far North District Council so it can borrow money against it to raise funds for re-development, working closely with the Russell Waterfront Trust. The benefit of this fund-raising model is that it doesn’t cost Council – or ratepayers – a single dollar. Importantly, these borrowed funds would be repaid with income generated by Far North Holdings’ overall commercial operation.
Far North Holdings and the Russell Waterfront Trust have had a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship for a long time. This wharf regeneration plan and the proposed funding model has been developed with the Trust’s full knowledge and oversight.
Similarly, for the past 12 months Far North Holdings has been working in close co-operation with the tenant of the current wharf building that is home to the information centre and has listened carefully to her plans and ideas for the wharf. The proposed redevelopment of this building will help the tenant improve the offering and facilities that her business is able to make available for local and tourist customers.
If the Wharf was to be transferred to Far North Holdings ownership the company would be perfectly willing for a covenant to be included in the Title, stating that it would not be sold to any Third Party other than the local community in the form of the Russell Waterfront Trust, if the FNDC so desired. Such a covenant would not be strictly necessary, though, as the wharf is a key maritime infrastructure asset which means that it could not be sold without the approval of elected Council representatives.
Far North Holdings joins FNDC Councillors and staff in encouraging ratepayers to review the Long-Term Plan consultation document and to submit feedback on the issues it is consulting on, as well as on any other matter to do with the plan. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or completed online here.
In addition to managing Far North infrastructure on behalf of ratepayers, Far North Holdings promotes investment and employment across the district. It uses its assets and expertise to help local businesses and communities identify commercial potential and make the most of opportunities that come their way. Its focus is on maximising the economic potential of the Far North, for the benefit of all ratepayers.
For more than a decade 50 percent of FNHL’s trading surplus has been distributed to the Far North District Council or reinvested in property and infrastructure. Without this income, general rates across the District would have been about four percent higher each year.