Hotel project spokesman confident of go-ahead

The man acting as the public face for a proposed 28-storey waterfront hotel in Dunedin says the project remains "full steam ahead" despite a public outcry.

However, Dunedin lawyer Steve Rodgers - the director of Betterways Advisory Ltd, the company fronting the development - would not rule out changes to the hotel's design, but hoped a fight through the Environment Court could be avoided.

Mr Rodgers said he remained convinced the hotel would be a "game-changer" for Dunedin and was "98.2%" confident it would win approval at next month's resource consent hearing.

That was despite a flood of 508 public submissions to the Dunedin City Council - easily a record for a notified consent application - including 457 opposed to the hotel project.

Most worried the hotel's size and waterfront location made it inappropriate for its surroundings, including nearby heritage warehouse buildings.

Mr Rodgers said yesterday he was not surprised by the volume or contents of the submissions, and said it was "a good thing" the city's residents had a chance to express their views.

However, nothing had changed despite the extent of the opposition, he said.

"There's nothing that's come up in the submissions that we hadn't anticipated ... we are still convinced it [the hotel] is in the best interests of this city.

"Resource management law isn't a matter of who gets the most votes. It's a matter of complying with the law - and we think we do."

Some submissions called for the project to be scrapped completely, while others wanted it to be redesigned - including reducing the hotel's height - or moved to another part of the city.

Mr Rodgers would not comment when asked if a smaller building could be considered, saying that would be a matter for the hearing.

Asked if the hotel could be built elsewhere in the city, Mr Rodgers would only say the waterfront site had been "specifically chosen" and there were no others in the city that were better.

Mr Rodgers said opposition from larger organisations, including KiwiRail, was to be expected, but noise issues would be addressed as part of the hotel's design and construction.

Claims by the Otago Regional Council, in its submission, the developers would need to seek ORC consents, on top of city council consents, would also be dealt with after the December hearing, Mr Rodgers said.

It was a "chicken and egg" situation, as there was little point seeking both at the same time, at extra cost, only for one council to say yes and the other to say no, he believed.

It was hoped ORC staff would be able to grant any necessary consents - including for water discharges during construction - without more public hearings and submissions.

Asked if the project was destined to end up in the Environment Court - if any city council decision to grant consent was appealed - Mr Rodgers said he hoped it could be avoided.

"From Dunedin's point of view, I certainly hope that the decision's in favour and we can get on and get it built. That's just spending money that could be better spent on Dunedin people, rather than lawyers ... dare I be quoted saying that.

"I think, if the council gives a decision in favour of us, that no-one will appeal. I'm an optimistic person."

• A council hearings committee chaired by Cr Colin Weatherall would consider Betterways' application for resource consent in public from December 3 to December 6, with reserve days available later in the month if needed.



No mention of being opposed

GW Scam: I have never said I oppose it being built. What i said was it won't work out as a viable enterprise. What I would be opposed to is any council or ratepayer funding. To answer your questions:
1)These people would be the ratepayers, the 80-odd percent who were opposed to the stadium.
2)No, we were not experts but we didn't need to be to know that the stadium would fail, just as this will. Being an investor with money to burn does not make you an expert.
3)No, but we will console them with a cup of tea and an "I told you so" when they are again unemployed after the place shuts down after six months or so of trading. My guess would be that the place would be full once or twice a year, and the rest of the time it would be 90% empty.
4)These investors are looking to invest said funds for their own benefit and you're dreaming if you think its for the benefit of Dunedin or its people. If we had $100 million we would not be stupid enough to waste it here as we know it would not be good business sense.


Who are those opposed to the hotel?

Speed Freak43, I read with interest your claim that "...the people know it won't suceed.."  and this comment brings several questions to mind.

1) Who are these "people"?  Are they members of some secret society who are determined to stop all and any investments in Dunedin?

2) Are these "people" experts in Hotel business and/or Tourism?  Do they know more than the investors willing to put up $100 million for this hotel?

3) Will these "people" be happy to personally face the hundreds of citizens who would have gained employment from the building of and staffing of the Hotel should it have gone ahead, but been stopped because of the negativity of these "people"?  

4) Will these "people" guarantee that they will find $100 million of their own to pour into alternative business investments in Dunedin, that will also create jobs for hundreds?

I, along with maybe 90% of Dunedin residents look forward to your answers.  

Interesting spin

Topsy - interesting how you spin a negative angle on positive statistics.

If the Uni needed it, they'd build it themselves

That's what they've always done! And I'm not guessing, and I'm not accepting your word as fact. And it's their core business, not there's.

Hotel? Town Hall?

Speaking of Town Hall Conferences, does anybody know that this enterprising update grew from an original $14.5ml, to $18.5ml, to $29.5ml, to $42ml and is likely to finish around $55 to $60ml ? Did anybody know that in its last year of operation (2008) it hosted 16 conferences ? Does anybody know that the latest update is predicated on a consultants report which based the justification on achieving 36 conferences per year from 2016 onwards ? Does anybody know that even if that target is reached that after taking revenue over operating costs and including debt servicing that it will lose $4.5ml per annum?

They're getting smaller all the time

Stevepf: I did not mention anything re parking in my last comment to you?

With the current world economical problems and rising fuel prices , I would say that attendance at conferences would be reducing all the time. Combine this with the fact that most could stay home and attend via video conferrencing does not enhance your argument. I would be really interested to know what conference that has come here had 500 attendees. You also seem to forget that if there was indeed a need to accomommodate 500 people, we have an old stadium, a new stadium,  and don't forget the town hall which could seat plenty.

I find it interesting that you mention that you used to work at the university. I too have had many dealings with academics over the last 20 years and have found as a rule that they are very knowledgeable in their given field but a lot of things outside that field are alien to them.

And by the way, It has nothing to do with the design or the location. It's that the people know it won't succeed, just like we knew the stadium wouldnt 

This hotel can't host conferences

There are a number of tenuous assumptions on this thread about conferences.

Topsy: While nationally most conferences might have a mostly local and strongly local government component, in Dunedin, a greater proportion of conferences will be associated with the university.

Gregglies: The university does really well with smaller conferences in the 50-150 range, often using the Otago Museum or the Castle or St David lecture foyers, plus associated rooms.

Rob Hamlin: I agree with Stevepf that the need for car parking is extremely minimal for the types of conference a large hotel in Dunedin is likely to hold.

However, having said all that, this hotel will never host that sort of conference. There are no conference rooms in the plans capable of holding both the entire conference for plenary sessions, and certinaly not 3-4 rooms capable of holding 50-200 people for parallel sessions. It has instead a banquet hall that is too odd a shape for a lecture session, and the other meeting rooms are too small. 

Finally, though there are some suitable venues in Dunedin (Town Hall, university out of term time), how many Dunedin organisations, including within the University, choose Queenstown as their venue when they are hosting a conference? (The answer is LOTS). Queenstown has as good a travel connections as Dunedin, many more hotels, many with more and better conference rooms than this proposal, and is perceived as being more likely to attract delegates.

Conference reality

The Ministry for Economic Development has good figures regarding the actual effects of International Conferences in New Zealand. 50% of all attendees come from within the host city. They contribute nothing apart from their registration fees. They are also typically local government employees which makes their costs ratepayer funded. Domestic attendees make up the next 35%.

They fly in and out immediately, contributing only to the conference venue and to the domestic airline industry. The final 15% of attendees are those who came from outside of New Zealand. These people do spend money while in the country. However, that money is spread around the entire country as these people want to see as much as possible before taking an expensive plane trip home. So, for every 100 people at an International Conference, the local business and tourism community can expect to receive a part share of the spending by 15 people. It's difficult to build a cost-effectiveness case based around 15 people.

How small do you think conferences are?

Well greggles the hall of residence is only empty about 10 weeks of the year as is the rest of the uni. How small do you think conferences are? I guess the meeting of the DAPL might fit in the staff club but most need rooms for up to 500 people plus need space for sponsors and smaller concurrent meetings. The uni facilities are full on very available week and regularly turn down business. Having used to work there myself the university could fill its space 10 times over should education not be there core business. Stop guessing what the international conference world needs as I can assure you you're wrong. Venues are needed in this city.Don't get me wrong if you are all just against the design I totally see your point but to be against the project as a whole is simply not forward thinking.

University conference facilities

The university have the staff club and the executive residence. They also have pretty good access to the stadium. They can use the halls of residence and other multipurpose venues. Going on track record when the university need something they build it. I doubt very very much they're waiting for private enterprise to build them conference facilities.


Stevepf: What is your evidence that top university people 'are crying out to conference here' because of 'inadequate facilities'. You must be in the know.

Speaking of dreamers ...

No digger, I don't presume the city will be full every week of the year with conferences, but no city is. With the country's top university people are crying out to conference here but the size of the facilities, supporting infrastructure and flight accessibility does not cut it.

And to Speedfreak to address some of your comment
1) re: car parking being the most important thing for conferencing ... only to locals. International conferences (and domestic) don't need it as delegates predominantly fly to Dunedin. The design fore the new hotel has an allowance for well over 100 car parks so your point is moot.

2) Decisions are rarely, if ever, based on weather decisions. If that was the case, nothing south of Auckland would receive this business.

3) Domestically the wildlife is actually quite irrelevant to the decision to conference in Dunedin. Internationally its a huge drawcard. 

You seem to think that delegates make the decision on the destination of the conference but they don't. It's the organiser who does.



The plane, boss, the plane!

How are things on Fantasy Island, Stevepf?[Abridged]

Free hotel

So the logic is: "If the free hotel is built then more people will come here for conferences."
Isn't that what they said about the stadium? Show me the people.

A dreamer of empty visions

Stevepf: Before the town hall was closed for renovations it was the premier place for conferences. It was not the only venue for conferences. You might like to know that, even then, it wasn't booked weeks on end for conferences, which disproves your point that 'we've been without facilities' for conferences.
You seem to be one of those dreamers who envisage endless hordes of new visitors because we have a new facility - just like the stadium!
Is this another version of 'build it and they will come'?


Not a viable venue

The conference market is exceedingly competitive, especially for the big international ones. Successful venues have to provide some required facilities, and they have to do so in spades.
In today's car-borne society one of these basic requirements is sufficient secure, dedicated and good quality parking for all who wish to attend any event on the basis of one vehicle per attendee, either integral with the facility, or within a very short distance. Access to any off-site parking also has to be guaranteed in the amounts required.
The proposed hotel does not appear to be a viable conference venue because it does seem to come close to meeting this basic requirement - unless providing that is something else that we are going to be paying for, but haven't been told about yet.




Conferences here a thing of the past

Stevepf: Sorry, but I do not agree. Maybe in the past when we had some industry and many head offices here, but not any more. Here's four reasons we won't get more conferences:

1)Location. Dunedin is too far away from anywhere important.
2) Population. There's only around 100,000 most of the time, not including students.
3) Weather. It's too cold here. Anyone planning a conference would most likely prefer a warmer location to travel too.
4) There is nothing here to make the trip worthwhile with the exception of albatross/penguins and the railway station/ Larnarch's castle, which anyone who's been here before, will have already seen.

We were given the 'build it and they will come' line with the stadium. Didn't work for that, and a new empty hotel wont make any difference either.


Conference facilities

Your last sentence proves Digger's point. Hotel conference facilities are preferential, making the council-owned facilities 2nd and 3rd choices at best.

Conference venues

Sorry digger but that is absolute rubbish. This city attracts and will attract many more conferences, it's just we've been without facilities. Most cities around the country host multiple conferences at one time, but due to lack of venues and accommodation we are not in a position to do the same. In order to compete in this market we need more hotels with brands that are recognisable and we even need more venues. Having a conference space within a hotel would be a dream result for any conference organiser and in my experience is always a preference.

New conference centre

If the hotel goes ahead we would presume that it will incorporate conference facilities. Think about it. It will compete against the stadium - where the conference facilities have, by all account, been most unpopular - and the refurbished town hall. Once again, the stadium's future financial viability will fall short with this added competition. Dunedin is not, from what I'm aware, about to be swamped with more conferences every year.
What will the council do to deal with this impact?

My proposed renovations

I'm doing renovations on my property. I intend to add another 4 stories  and to extend out 15 metres which would include the carriageway outside my property. For  this to be accomplished I would need the co-operation of the DCC to move this carriageway all together. I'm sure that won't be a problem and that the DCC will be ever so helpful :-) 

Council's role in development

It sounds like the DCC may not have clearly thought through its role in fostering economic development in the city.
One obvious problem with bending over backwards to accommodate potential investors who approaches with a proposal is that it amounts to a first in/first served deal. This is intrinsically unfair because other developers might have also been interested but have had no information on what, if any, co-operation from the council was available.
The other problem is that such deals are bound to be 'commercially sensitive', so you can guarantee that the ratepayers and residents of the city will know very little until it's a done deal.
Also, the absence of transparency means that the potential for preferential treatment for insiders and their contacts is huge. So much money can be made from development and real estate that it is especially an area where councils should not only be honest but be clearly seen to be honest.
The lack of complete and public relevant information also compromises the integrity of the planning process.




Build it in South Dunedin then

Rob Fisher: It would fit right in out there with all the rest of the run down and empty buildings. And what a great idea about the post apocalyptic town. You should suggest that to council  as it would more than likely attract more to Dunedin than their recent hair brained schemes

Proposed hotel - is this a council PPP?

The DCC has indicated the hearing committee shall consist of three (elected) commissioners; Colin Weatherall is the chairman. If the council is hearing the application with 'independence', it must carefully consider whether it can deliver that independence since the applicant, Betterways Advisory Limited, has placed in writing (see the application documents) that it invites council's 'cooperation' in making infrastructure changes -  to suit the private owners of the proposed hotel and the hotel's future operation. 

You would like to think the hearing committee has formed an opinion on how it will treat that invitation before the hearing commences - so submitters are unequivocally clear on the council's position. The submitters are presently in the dark.

Further, if the council is likely to participate in a public private partnership (PPP) or some other form of relationship or accord with the developer, you would hope the council had declared itself well prior to publicly notifying an application of this importance. The council hasn't declared anything.


Quid pro quo

Chirpbird: I don't know if it's a 'deal' but in their submission the developers say they want the DCC to give them part of Wharf St. Also they want their employees to use street parking rather than providing them with car parks, and they want 2 out of 3 of their apartment dwellers to also park on the street (despite zoning requirements to the contrary). In essence they want the  DCC to give them the use of a whole lot of street parking instead of paying for it themselves.

They also point out that that Wharf St, our heavy traffic bypass to the port, will be an intimidating street for their guests (though they say that personally they have no problem crossing it) which I suspect is a run up to requests for  the provision of pedestrian access of some sort (a tunnel or a bridge) to the Wharf and Queen's Gardens area.

With these requests by the developers in their proposal it's pretty obvious that it will cost the city something, the hotel will not be free, the ratepayers will be subsidising it.


Yeah right, speadfreak43. It would look great standing empty with a few smashed windows and resident squatters ... that really says "Dunedin", doesn't it. Do you think that looking like a post-apocalyptic B-movie would have no economic consequences for the city? Hmm .. if the stadium goes under as well and we add a few more student slums we could theme ourselves as the world's first post-apocalyptic town. That would bring in the tourists (or attract zombies).

Any deals between DCC and developers?

Farsighted, is there any way a ratepayer can find out whether the DCC does in fact intend to make roading and accessibility improvements in the locality of the hotel? Or whether they would be intending to do it solely because of the hotel proposal? Or whether they are looking at 'synergies' and 'win/win' deals?
I find your suggestion rather alarming because I see a conflict of interests between any 'synergies' and the DCC also acting as consent authority during the planning process.
If the DCC has made any kind of deal with the developers then surely the application should be heard by an independent planning commissioner.


Absolutely 'farsighted'

If 60 metre piles are required for this; its underpinnings, in view of its narrow footprint, make its foundations, necessarily, of a very spindly contruction, whether they sit on rock, or not. There is the possibility that when sideways movement of those piles is only supported upright by the 'Weet-bix' over which it is intended it should be built, all failing in the one direction due to some 'event' in which other buildings might remain comparatively unaffected, we would have a major catastrophy on our hands. 100 metres of flying-glass, as shattered shards pop out of their mountings and head groundwards from great heights, brings to mind the spectre of the French Revolution, and the part played in it by 'Ma'mzelle Guillotine'.    


Message to stevepf: You will not find any comment by me regarding this hotel on this site or others.  Your comments therefore are worthy of withdrawal on your part and an apology.

However, you will find heaps from me on the unwarranted and unwanted public spending on the stadium from which I am proud to have made.  Ditto on Delta, and on pokie fund grants.

Take their money and let them build it

As long as there is no cost to the ratepayers for anything extra, road changes, bridges etc. Who really cares if it is a big flop (like many other things built recently in this city) I am certainly not bothered if its built, then fails or falls in the harbour as long as the ratepayers aren't landed with any more costs

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