Site grab stymies Flux

The Tauranga i-Site is understood to be moving into this store on The Strand.

A Tauranga businessman is angry and upset at losing his prime Tauranga waterfront shop site, after being outbid by the operators of i-Site.

“I feel I have been treated poorly by both Tourism Bay of Plenty and the i-Site Visitor Information Centre,” says Neil Pollett, who runs Flux – an e-bike sale and rental outfit in the Munro Building – a high profile site on eat street, the city’s restaurant belt, The Strand.

The manager of the building says Neil was on a short-term lease and was given ample opportunity to put in a counter offer and secure a long-term lease.

“It was perfect for us,” says Neil, who moved his business from Auckland only after finding the ideal shop site in Tauranga. “There’s tourist traffic, it’s a safe zone, so we can test bikes on the waterfront and direct people onto the cycle trails right across the road.”

But Neil’s tenancy has been terminated. He will be out on the street this month and, he says, Flux will be out of business for a couple of months while he seeks a new base.

 “We had taken out a short lease to test the location,” says Neil. “And we were busy renegotiating the numbers with the landlord so we could stay at the site. The rent was likely to be going up by a third.” But then, he says, i-Site, the visitor information centre (presently situated in the council building on the corner of Willow and Wharf Street) indicated its interest.

“They basically told me my shop was the only tenancy for them. They wanted to be on The Strand because it wasn’t a great place to be one block back. They were also having problems with the homeless on Willow Street and they wouldn’t be dissuaded.” Neil pointed to all the vacant tenancies around town. “They could choose any one of them. But they wanted mine.” Then, says Neil, he was told by the landlord Tourism Bay of Plenty wanted to inspect his premises. And, Neil says, that upped the ante.

When he presented “some numbers to the landlord” he claims he was told that because Tourism Bay of Plenty and i-Site were in the mix, he would have to pay a lot more.  “I wasn’t happy. I feel they have basically persisted in trying to get something they wanted, at any cost and without regard for a local business. And any thing I presented to the landlord they would come over me.”

The Weekend Sun approached I-Site this week. It did not respond. Tourism Bay of Plenty had no comment and the Tauranga City Council which jointly controls and finances the Tourism Bay of Plenty “was saddened to hear of the disagreement”.

The Weekend Sun was directed to Auckland property manager, Dianne Rice, of Griffiths Holdings Limited. She emailed a response to our request for an interview.

Neil apparently entered into a four-month tenancy with Munro Holdings, owners of the building, and when it expired in May, Neil had been “holding over” in the tenancy. “A lease of this nature can be terminated by either party anytime on one month’s notice. Mr Pollett at any time during this period could have entered into negotiations to take a long-term lease on the tenancy but he was happy to remain in the tenancy on a month to month basis.”

Then, according to Dianne, when interest was shown by another party, Neil was given an opportunity to secure the tenancy on a long-term lease on terms and conditions acceptable to the landlord. Neil declined to accept and countered with another offer not acceptable to the landlord.

“Negotiations with Mr Pollett are at an end and his tenancy has been terminated with one month’s notice.”

Neil says he was told landlords like nothing more than a government-backed tenant with their long leases and maximum rents.

“They will tell you they allowed us to negotiate with the landlord but they just set us up for a fall.

“Whatever we negotiated they would just come over us and offer more. The landlord would always prefer them.”

Neil says Flux is planning to set up an entity called Bike the Bay. “It’s about trying to grow cycle tourism, it’s booming everywhere else in New Zealand but sort of non-existent in this area.”

And as a tourism-oriented industry, Neil Pollet thinks Tourism Bay of Plenty and i-Site should be encouraging him. “That’s the whole reason they are there. If the operators, like Flux, aren’t succeeding, they’re not doing their job.”

Flux was also planning to set up some tourism product, taking people by boat to Omokoroa and riding back on the new $20 million trail. “So that was the reason we were down here amongst the tourist traffic.”