Council backdown on f ish factory

By Laura Mills
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The Grey District Council last night backed down over a development fee charged to Westfleet, securing an $8 million fish factory development for Greymouth — despite one councillor saying they were being held to ransom.
It paves the way for work to start on the wharf on October 1.
Councillors met in private last night after Westfleet baulked at the earlier decision insisting on a $25,000 development fee for the factory.
On Monday, Mayor Tony Kokshoorn had tried unsuccessfully to meet the fishing company halfway and charge it $12,500, but councillors said that would be creating a bad precedent, noting that many other developers had also been refused application to have their development fees waived.
However, last night councillors agreed $25,000 was too much, settling on $12,500.
The council resolutions, made in public, said overall it was “satisfied that Sealord Westfleet would be a good corporate citizen”.
Cr Tony Coll said it was similar to the Government’s recent $30m deal over the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.
“We are being held to ransom for the sake of an $8m development and 70 jobs.”
Deputy Mayor Doug Truman said, “I hope (Westfleet managing director Craig) Mr Boote will take this in the spirit in which it’s intended” and go ahead with corporate responsibility”.
Cr Kevin Brown said the council had to take consideration of the 70 jobs, and it was seeking employment in the district.
Only Cr Karen Hamilton voted against it.
Mr Kokshoorn said today the “change of heart” was a victory for common sense. The town had been “on its knees”, but the factory would create 50 new jobs, in addition to the existing 20.
Westfleet was also buying port land for $250,000, at the going commercial rate and that would be used to pay some of the existing port debt of $800,000.
Mr Kokshoorn defended meeting for 45 minutes in private last night, saying they had discussed Westfleet’s financial figures.
He also said halving the development fee — set at a percentage of the value of all large developments — had been done before, with Mitre 10 and St John.
He was satisfied Westfleet would benefit the town in other ways, as it had indicated it would sponsor upcoming events.
Mr Boote confirmed that work would start on October 1, and said any future sponsorship deals would have to be treated on their merit.