An image of how the Dunedin Hotel might look if built.
Image by supplied.
The fate of Dunedin's proposed $100 million waterfront
hotel could turn on a legal argument about its height.
A Dunedin City Council hearings committee adjourned on
Thursday after four days of arguments, expert evidence and
public pleas on the 28-storey hotel, which Betterways
Advisory Ltd wants to build at 41 Wharf St.
Amid worries about pedestrian access, transport disruption,
noise, shading and wind, the main point of contention to
emerge has been the proposed building's towering height.
Submitters argued it would dominate its surroundings and
However, a legal argument by Betterways and the company's
expert witnesses - rejected by lawyers and experts opposing
them - could be crucial to the debate.
Betterways hoped to build the 96m-high hotel on industrial
land, meaning the building's mix of commercial and
residential activities - including restaurants, apartments
and bars - would not comply with district plan rules, a
council planner's report concluded.
However, Betterways' solicitor, Phil Page, last week argued
an industrial building of the same height as the proposed
hotel would be allowed on the site as of right, without a
resource consent, under a ''permitted baseline test''.
That was because the industrial 1 zoning of the land had no
height limit placed on it.
That meant the argument was over whether a hotel - rather
than a tall building - was the problem, unless the committee
considered the proposal for such a tall industrial building
was ''fanciful'', he believed.
The report by council planner Lianne Darby, which recommended
consent be declined, concluded it was, and therefore the
permitted baseline test did not apply.
''The proposed development is unlike anything existing or
anticipated for this site or area ... the expectations for
the site are still to be framed within the context of
construction that is non-fanciful."
However, Mr Page argued that was ''misguided'', saying an
international logistics hub for Maersk or P&O were
examples of large industrial buildings that could be built on
''The proper approach ... is not to try to predict whether
someone might build an industrial building of this scale, but
rather to consider whether to apply the permitted baseline or
Betterways' consultant planner, Don Anderson, told the
committee to turn its attention to district plan rules
''rather than to personal emotions''.
Under that assessment, there would be ''little, if any''
physical impact arising from the hotel's construction that
was more than district plan rules allowed, he claimed.
There would be shading from the hotel, but the district plan
only controlled shadows from buildings falling on a
residential zone, Portsmouth Dr or Dukes Rd, or in Sawyers
Bay - not from 41 Wharf St.
Disruption to views caused by the hotel's height was also not
an issue that could be considered by the committee, Mr
He acknowledged there ''will be a loss of existing view
shafts'' from Waverley, City Rise and upper floors of the
heritage warehouse precinct, ''but these views are not
guaranteed by the district plan''.
The district plan's ''extensive'' rules controlling the
external appearance of buildings around the city also did not
apply to 41 Wharf St, he said.
That meant ''little, if any'' weight could be given to the
submissions on the building's height or appearance, while
shading and loss of views were not issues of concern for the
hotel under the district plan.
However, solicitor Alistair Logan, acting for the Otago
Regional Council, which opposed the hotel's development, took
a different view.
Claims there were no adverse effects from the hotel, because
no height limit could be applied, were ''not tenable''.
It was up to the committee to decide if the permitted
baseline test - which, if applied, would exclude height as an
issue - should be applied, he said.
The hearing will resume on December 17 for a second round of
public submissions, expected to take up to three days.
The committee will then begin deliberations on all the
evidence - including the legal issue and other considerations
- but a decision is not expected until early next year.