Submissions to the Dunedin City Council hearings committee
on the proposed Wharf St hotel continued yesterday. Photo
by Gregor Richardson.
The design of a $100 million hotel proposed for Dunedin's
waterfront has been labelled ''plop architecture'' as opponents
lined up to criticise the project during a sometimes testy
public hearing yesterday.
The criticisms came as a Dunedin City Council hearings
committee considered the fourth day of submissions on
Betterways Advisory Ltd's bid to build the waterfront hotel
on vacant industrial land at 41 Wharf St.
Descriptions of the hotel's ''communist'' and ''banal''
design were left ringing in committee members' ears as a
steady procession of individuals and groups made their cases
in person yesterday.
Many arguing against the project stressed they were not
anti-development - just against the hotel as proposed.
That included a joint submission by staff from the University
of Otago's geography and applied sciences departments, who
argued consent should be declined.
However, one member of the group, senior lecturer Dr Mark
McGuire, suggested that replacing the unimaginative ''glass
box'' with an improved design could yet retrieve the project.
An example of what could be achieved was the West Plaza tower
on Auckland's waterfront, which also stood beside low-rise
and heritage buildings but was considered the city's best
architectural example, he said.
Dunedin had only one chance to ensure the hotel's design was
good, rather than accepting the ''plop architecture''
''We think this is probably the most important building that
will be built in Dunedin in the foreseeable future.
''The level of design ... needed from the architecture isn't
A council planner's report has recommended consent be
declined, but suggested the hotel's design be referred to a
panel of experts if the committee decided to grant consent.
Other speakers yesterday were adamant the hotel was unwelcome
in Dunedin - anywhere, in any form - and exchanges grew
heated as Dunedin property developer Jeff Dickie argued
against the hotel.
He suggested ratepayers would end up footing the bill if the
hotel proved uneconomic, ''which is likely''.
''There's no reason this hotel will be ring-fenced against
ratepayer liability,'' he said.
Cr Colin Weatherall interjected, pointing out the consent
process was independent and the council had offered no
funding for the hotel.
''I'm just worried this is going to turn into another one of
those flops,'' Mr Dickie persisted.
''Your assurances give me very little comfort.''
Former Dunedin deputy mayor Dame Elizabeth Hanan said the
hotel would create a ''hefty vertical barrier'' on the
waterfront, and ''few cities in the world would allow such a
massive destruction of their heritage''.
Her husband, Murray Hanan, suggested that if it proceeded,
the developers be required to pay a bond to cover the cost of
completing, or demolishing, it if construction stalled. Otago
Regional Council representatives, including solicitor
Alistair Logan and ORC corporate services manager Gerard
Collings, detailed concerns about shading on their
properties, and other problems, during a two-hour
Consultant surveyor David Smeaton, appearing for the ORC,
presented graphics showing shadows would be more significant
than depicted in modelling presented by Betterways. Shadows
would be cast over parts of Customhouse Quay from each
afternoon year-round, and part of the Customhouse Restaurant
would be shaded from early evening from September to March.
ORC counsel Alistair Logan said the hotel's visual impact was
reason enough to reject the consent application, but
Betterways director Steve Rodgers had indicated no downsizing
would be considered.
That made the company's proposal an ''all or nothing'' bid
and ''given that choice, there is only one answer -
nothing'', Mr Logan said.
Simon Parker, from the New Zealand Institute of Architects
Southern Branch, said the hotel would block views and destroy
the character of the area, and Paul Pope, of the Dunedin
Amenities Society, said it would dominate the landscape in a
way ''not seen in Dunedin before''.
Dunedin woman Liz Rowe believed buildings needed to ''respect
each other'' and the hotel should enhance Dunedin's appeal,
not threaten to ''destroy'' it.
Robert Cunninghame said the hotel would be ''out of place
anywhere'' in Dunedin, while Dennis Dorney believed the city
should encourage industry rather than allow a hotel on scarce
''Booms produce hotels. Hotels don't produce booms ... I
think it's completely back-to-front.''
The committee also heard from other opponents, including
Islay Little, who said allowing ''mostly ugly'' office blocks
around the Octagon ''does not justify another architectural
disaster'' on the waterfront.
John Milburn, of Monarch Wildlife Cruises, was the only
submitter to speak in favour of the hotel yesterday.
He pointed to the economic benefits the hotel's construction
and operation would bring, insisting any investment of $100
million in Dunedin ''should be welcomed with open arms''.
The hotel would also put an ''eyesore'' of vacant industrial
land to good use, and the pedestrian bridge that might follow
only made the project more attractive, he said.
''We have got a wonderful, wonderful harbour ... it's
arguably the most beautiful harbour in New Zealand, and
people can't get to it.''
The hearing adjourned at the end of yesterday's session but
will resume on December 17 for up to three further days of