Auckland District Law Society council proposes Chancery Chambers sale, last try failed

The Auckland District Law Society’s council has proposed to sell Chancery Chambers in Auckland’s CBD after a similar plan three years ago was rejected by members.

Marie Dyhrberg QC, society president, has written to members telling them of the new plan and saying retaining ownership is not financially viable.

On October 26, the society’s council resolved to recommend the sale, she said.

“In reaching this position, [the] council was mindful of the fact that two previous processes seeking member approval for such a sale back in 2018 were not successful.

“Members may reasonably ask what’s changed since 2018? Put simply the financial risks involved in continuing to own Chancery Chambers have worsened significantly in the last three years and in [the] council’s considered view make continued ownership no longer viable,” Dyhrberg wrote.

Member and property and commercial lawyer Jack Porus was asked to undertake an independent assessment.

“Jack’s conclusion is clear: while the building is iconic and well located, it has reached a point where it needs to be refurbished and repositioned in the market which will require substantial investment.It can no longer be held in the medium and long term as a passive investment,” Dyhrberg said.

A member ballot on the proposal opened on Thursday last week and closed on November 19.

“We will ensure that members have access to all the information they need to come to an informed decision. In particular, Jack Porus has very generously made himself available to meet with interested members over Zoom to answer any questions they may have on his report to council.

Member feedback from 2018 has been heard and acted upon, she stressed.

“In terms of process, council will select from a short-list of three a respected commercial real estate company that will run a competitive and transparent tender process to achieve the best possible price,” Dyhrberg said.

The council then hopes to buy another Auckland building. That was a likely outcome.

“Meantime, all proceeds would be capital protected and will be invested conservatively with leading funds management company Forsyth Barr,” Dyhrberg said.

“I know that many members have a great affection for Chancery Chambers. Your council understands that and has not taken the decision to recommend sale to members lightly. But our focus must be a commercial one – after all Chancery Chambers represents some three-quarters of ADLS members funds,” she said.

The earthquake risk, insurance issues and refurbishment were not new issues.

Latest annual reports set out in some detail the risks, and unfortunately, these will only grow greater in time, she said.

Some members are vocal in their opposition. They told the Herald they will strongly oppose the sale and encouraged other members to do so as well.

“The council has not presented any current valuation of the land and buildings nor presented any report/quote from a company to undertake and complete the remedial work required to bring the building up to scratch,” said one member who did not want to be named.

“Further, surely the ground floor does not have to be used as a restaurant. It is great space and centrally located so a commercial enterprise might well seize it. The Council has just decided that the building should be sold,” he said.

Like three years ago, this latest thrust to sell the building was not well thought out, is “shabby, it is defective and I find it underwhelming as to its argument to sell,” the unhappy member said.

“I intend to oppose it like I did last time. The street position of the building is unique, never to be replaced, and I urge you to oppose the thrust by the council to sell it without the full facts having been provided to members,” that member told others.

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