'Plop architecture' among litany of criticisms

Submissions to the Dunedin City Council hearings committee on the proposed Wharf St hotel continued yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
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'' proposed.

''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 there.''

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 presentation.

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 industrial land.

''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 submissions.




The Illuminations

It's a fair cop, ejkerr.

5 star - and winking lights

Indeed blissful to indulge. Rawlinson End - "A tale of everyday country folk from the extraordinary mind of Vivian Stanshall. An episodic radio serial that spawned CD's, a film and a book."

"The story so far...

"Towered and turreted, feudal and reactionary, the great house of Rawlinson End endures, as does its master Sir Henry Rawlinson. Its chambers and dusty corridors hung with portraits of Rawlinsons and Maynards past now gaze down on many grotesque inhabitants . . . Less than a mile North from the house as the crow flies, longer by road along Gibbet Fork and up the Oxbrake Road, is the village with a newsagents, grocers, and the local hostelry, the Fool and Bladder.[...] . . . .

"The public house faces Sensible Green, a molehill blighted cricket pitch. Just beyond Rawlinson End, on the arterial road to Concreton, is the municipal sewerage works. Sir Henry makes clandestine visits here, finding relief from his chronic lumbago by bathing in its mud pools. Concreton with its tower blocks and winking lights can be seen in the distance. Sir Henry says it is the future and it hates us. It seems to get nearer all the time. Regardless, the launderette has its uses, so does the local tattooist."

Read more here

Our heritage

There was also the Corstorphine Boys' Home, no stars, last century. Is heritage always Victorian/Edwardian? What about the Brutalist high rise DPH, or that tilted line glass building, campus St David Street?

Think about positive impact on the city

A new hotel is absolutely needed in Dunedin and of 5 star. I cannot understand why people are so negative about people willing to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into the city that we do not fund ourselves (it's a no brainer).

This hotel would replace all the jobs recently lost in the city - why are so many people against employment and tourism? We need more corporate tourists to again bring in money, and the more tourists to our lovely city the more flow on to further employment. This would help generate better income for the stadium as well - which would be great!

While I would prefer to see the hotel of a lower height and better location, I am also aware we may get one chance at this - so best the councillor a take a positive approach to negotations.

5-star hotel

There actually was a 5-star hotel in Dunedin until a few years ago. It was called Corstorphine House. It went out of operation, because there was no demand for such high-end accommodation in Dunedin.


You look at the sketchy building plans. The rigid determination to stick with the odd number of anticipated floors above ground being "27". You hear from the applicant no business feasibility has been done. The applicant simply wants resource consent, on the basis of very little true and correct information being made public. And you wait. You almost wait for news that - a bit like the newspaper ad for a proposed (non funded) pedestrian and cycle bridge - there will be an application for a casino venue licence... Except, current legislation states existing casinos aren't able to expand their gambling activities and no new casino venue licences will be issued. So, you're kept waiting. And you wait.


The only pro-hotel banter I see lately feels to be coming straight from the horse's mouth. The pro-hotel comments on ODT exactly mimic what the developers have been saying in the council meetings. It's painfully obvious. Even their outrageously smug attitude is present. The people have spoken, trying to flame us on ODT is not working. Nice try though.

Dunedin has spoken

Dunedin has spoken and there has been an outpouring of responses submitted against the hotel. Please respect the voices and the wishes of the people. I see that some commentators here are now beginning to bash Dunedin and deride us. This is truly sad, but then it also shows how much these hotel supporters really care about our city.

This hotel will not bring in millions of dollars. The millions of Chinese that will come here will pay for the package tour in China to the Chinese agents. The actual amount of money spent by large tour groups is minimal compared to the cash that is spent by the independent "middle class" travellers. These tourists have a direct impact on the economy and engage locally at many different levels.

Second up the tier come the cruise ship customers but they do not spend as much as they have services and accomodation aboard the liners. The massive tour groups of Chinese wil pay for their group tour in China. They will eat in the hotel and they will be driven to designated spots. They might spend an afternoon strolling around town but spend nothing much because again there will be a "souvenir" shop inside the hotel. Moreover, the hotel will start to suck up the few tourists that we do get spending in our community and send all the profit overseas. No-one in their right mind just gives away $100 million out of benevolence, give me a break.

We have a beautiful city. Our heritage buildings are so impressive and the pure band of nature that runs through our city can not be found anywhere else in the world. I love this city, it belongs to us. Let's protect it from being ruined by ousiders who don't give a stuff about what we think. There are better ways to improve Dunedin and that should be our focus. [Abridged]


Re: Right on the Money

I do see your point about the ratepayer being lumbered with another white elephant; however, this is a venture designed to make a return and the model has worked elsewhere.

Also, Dunedin does not have a five star hotel already and there is at times pressure on accomodation there.

As for Dunedin being a laughing stock for accepting, well it is starting to be the other way round as per the Mike Hosking breakfast the other day when they read out the ODT headline. They cannot understand what the fuss is about, neither can I.

There is risk in all projects; however, this project appears to be simple and straightforward - build a hotel with fantastic views for high-paying tourists that will stay long enough to really get to see Dunedin. What is so ridiculous about that?

Welcome to Dunedin!

Want to build a smelter or maybe a wood processing plant, gee how about a hotel complex on rundown wasteland? Any other city in NZ would grab this, except good old negative Dunedin.

The unwanted eyesore

Plop architecture is a flattering description. It resembles something drawn by a bored 5 year old. It could go ahead providing the first 20 floors are underground or it is placed in quarry next to the stadium.

Right on the money

Murray Hanan, at least, is thinking-straight.
In view of the proposed building site - made up of the spoil which was removed in the early days from hills nearby to give the infant city of Dunedin a substantially level building-platform, and dumped as a matter of expediency onto a swamp and left in an uncompacted state - there is a likelihood, that once the developers find out what they are up against the whole ridiculous scheme could have to be abandoned half-completed, or possibly even when initial excavations have taken place.
Under those circumstances, those who are so hell-bent on foisting this edifice onto Dunedin and its people are not going to put right the damage they have inflicted on the area. They will be hell-bent on simply 'walking-away', cutting their losses and setting-up elsewhere.
Unless there are measures put in train to avoid this happening, we will not only be the laughing stock of the entire country, but we will be left, yet again, with Dunedin ratepayers to foot the bill.
A bond, equal to the full cost of any remedial work required to put things back as they were should be a key requirement of any consent granted. [Abridged]


Rates subsidy

I am for any big scale project in the city that does not require me to subsidise it with my rates. At the moment I am subsidsing a professional rugby venue to the tune of $500 per year, and the cost keeps going up.

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