Dunedin could secure a lucrative slice of China's
expanding outbound tourism market by saying yes to a five-star,
$100 million waterfront hotel, a hearings committee has heard.
And the company behind the proposal - Betterways Advisory Ltd
- has already begun talks with two potential operators who
could bring international branding to the project.
However, Betterways director Steve Rodgers has ruled out
redeveloping the former chief post office building on Princes
St, and rejected other sites around the city, saying they
lacked a "five-star setting".
The developments came as the company's bid to build a
28-storey hotel and apartment tower at 41 Wharf St went
before the Dunedin City Council's hearings committee for the
start of a resource consent hearing yesterday.
The controversial project has attracted 507 submissions - 457
of them opposed - and a council planner's report recommended
consent be declined, amid concerns about the hotel's height
and dominant appearance.
The first day of the public hearing was the chance for
Betterways to present its case, backed by expert evidence, to
the committee of chairman Cr Colin Weatherall, Crs Andrew
Noone and Kate Wilson and independent commissioner John
Betterways' opening salvos will conclude today, before the
first of more than 100 submitters expected to address the
committee have their say.
Hotel and tourism industry consultant Stephen Hamilton, of
Auckland, told the committee yesterday Dunedin's lack of
quality accommodation - including the absence of a five-star
hotel - meant it was at a "significant disadvantage" when
competing with other New Zealand destinations to attract
That was particularly true for the growing number of upper
and middle-class Chinese travellers, who had high disposable
incomes and wanted high-quality accommodation offered by
Tourism New Zealand was already targeting the luxury end of
China's visitor market, but Dunedin was "not currently well
positioned to capture such China visitors", he said.
The main constraint - "and a significant one" - was the
quality of hotel rooms in Dunedin and lack of well-known
international brands, he said.
Most Chinese tourists did not include Dunedin on their short
New Zealand itineraries, but the city's "competitive
strength" could be an internationally recognised five-star
hotel, he said.
Achieving that would be a "big step" forward for the city,
and Dunedin was "very fortunate" to have an investor prepared
to take the financial risk, he said.
The Dunedin City Council's resource consent hearing for the
planned 28-storey waterfront hotel began yesterday. Photo
by Craig Baxter
The hotel would be "the single most significant asset"
Dunedin needed to improve the competitiveness of its visitor
industry nationally, and grow "new" visitor arrivals to Dunedin
over the next decade, he said.
"This is a very strong opportunity which Dunedin should
embrace and facilitate to the greatest extent possible."
Betterways' solicitor, Phil Page, began yesterday's hearing
by acknowledging the appearance and design of the proposed
tower would be the "front and centre" issue to be considered
during the hearing.
He was confident any other issues of concern - other than the
hotel's size, scale and footprint - were "eminently fixable".
Mr Rodgers said construction of the hotel - if approved -
would take about two years, meaning construction jobs
followed by a continuing economic boost from the hotel's
However, Betterways was set on developing the Wharf St site,
despite public concern about its size, location and impact on
harbour views and nearby heritage buildings.
Other sites had been "considered and rejected", including the
former chief post office building and the Otago Regional
Council's proposed waterfront headquarters site, Mr Rodgers
The condition of the former chief post office building,
together with its size and location, meant its interior would
have to be "gutted" to accommodate a five-star hotel, "and
leaving just the facade would destroy the look of the
The ORC site's shape and orientation did not provide
"premium" harbour and city views, while land around the
Forsyth Barr Stadium and elsewhere along the waterfront was
too far from the central city.
The committee also heard detailed evidence from project
architect Jeremy Whelan, of Ignite Architects, who defended
The modern structure "does not intend to mimic or respond" to
surrounding architecture, and a high-rise hotel allowed city
and harbour views - as well as room rates - to be maximised,
Acoustic consultant John Farren, of Marshall Day Acoustics,
was confident the hotel's design could adequately
against noise and vibration from passing railway and vehicle
traffic, but Betterways was also prepared to enter into a
"no-complaints covenant" with KiwiRail.
Transport engineer Andrew Carr said the hotel could be built
without causing capacity, efficiency or road safety issues
for the adjacent roading network.
Potential site access problems for service vehicles were not
significant, but could be addressed by a traffic management
plan and site access plans approved by the council.
The hearing would continue until Thursday and then resume on
December 17, when up to three further days were available if