Contractor welcomes hotel

Dunedin building contractor Russell Lund says ''height is good'' and plans for a 28-storey waterfront hotel should be welcomed.

Mr Lund, the managing director of Lund South Ltd, gave a detailed case yesterday in favour of the $100 million hotel proposed by Betterways Advisory Ltd for 41 Wharf St .

His comments came as supporters launched something of a fight-back on the sixth day of the hotel's resource consent hearing, after days of arguments heavily against the proposed tower.

Others continued to oppose the project, including the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which warned against allowing the ''overbearing'' hotel.

The estimated $100 million cost of the hotel was also questioned by submitters who suggested it could cost double that amount.

Mr Lund told the committee Dunedin needed to seize the once-in-a-generation chance for foreign investment in a five-star hotel that would offer views and sun from all elevations.

That would give the city a competitive edge over other centres including Queenstown, where height rules meant the resort town's four and five-star hotels were built on - and even into - steep terrain with restricted views from many rooms.

Dunedin's proposed hotel site was rare in any city, and the advantages it offered ''cannot be overstated'', Mr Lund believed.

''This will be, in fact, the best five-star hotel in New Zealand.''

Mr Lund said he spoke for the trust that owned the Loan and Mercantile heritage building just north of the site, and had no financial interest in the hotel or any agreement with Betterways to help build it.

However, he insisted the hotel would make better use of the vacant site than an ''ugly'' industrial development, which would be at odds with surrounding tourist attractions, restaurants and public spaces.

He also disputed the view a 96m-high building on an industrial site with no height limit was ''fanciful'' and, therefore, could not be built as of right, saying it was ''utterly, fundamentally wrong''.

Examples included the proposed Holcim cement works in Weston, which would be 100m high when built, he said.

Other traffic and construction challenges could also be overcome, but aspects of the design could be improved, including the hotel's exterior finish, he said.

Customhouse Restaurant owner Barry Timmings also backed the hotel yesterday, saying it would improve the waterfront and the city's economy.

''I look forward 100 years and I think we have got to add more strings to our bow than we have got, and this is part of it.''

Other submitters continued the fight against the hotel, including Peter Laing, owner of the Leviathan Hotel, who reiterated concerns about the hotel's impact on its surroundings.

He also questioned whether it could be built for $100 million, citing figures in the Rawlinsons New Zealand Construction Handbook that showed it could cost up to $228 million.

That could see it abandoned half-built, like the Sheraton Hotel site in Rarotonga, he feared.

Committee chairman Cr Colin Weatherall it was not for the committee to justify the figures, but rather Betterways' solicitor, Phil Page, when summing up the applicant's case.

NZHPT Otago-Southland branch heritage adviser Jane O'Dea also warned the hotel could damage the appeal of the city's historic harbourside area, discouraging refurbishment of its other buildings.

The Resource Management Act provided for the protection of heritage buildings, areas and surroundings, making the impact of the hotel's size contrary to the Act, she argued.

KiwiRail acting southern regional manager Neil Campbell also urged the committee to decline consent or impose a ''no complaints covenant'', protecting KiwiRail's use of the main south line from complaints about noise, dust and vibration.

''Our issue, really, with this hotel is it's right smack bang in the middle on the shunt yard,'' he said.

Steps to protect KiwiRail were already proposed by Betterways, and Mr Page said the company was happy to add the covenants KiwiRail - as well as Port Otago - sought.

Other submitters yesterday included civil and transportation engineer Phillip Cole, who questioned details of the project and warned against following the Gold Coast's high-rise example.

''Dunedin's heritage soul should not be sold to the devil. Once lost, you will never get it back.''

Peter Attwooll also questioned why its Chinese backers would not yet be identified, suggesting the secrecy ''does raise suspicions''.

Albie Benson backed the hotel, saying it would fill a gap in high-end accommodation, improve the harbourside area and create jobs across the city.

''Is there any city in the world that would turn down this opportunity, particularly in the present economic situation?''

The Airways Corporation of New Zealand also wanted conditions imposed - possibly including an aeronautical study - to ensure the hotel was not a risk to helicopters using the Kitchener St and Dunedin Hospital helipads.

The Civil Aviation Authority could also direct Betterways to install additional lighting on the hotel if required, the committee heard.

The hearing continues today.


I wish some of you with such strong opinons would go to the hearings and judge for yourself not just read the paper. The owner of the Leviathan did support a 5 star hotel- just not this one! (I was there). Most of the objections have been to the poor design and place.


Competition will improve current offering

It's interesting that Dunthat Motel (3 star) and a 'hotel' like the Leviathon are the ones against the hotel, yet are at the lower end of the accommodation scale.

Competition is good for everyone and is a good opportunity for those in the current market to up their game. These hoteliers/moteliers say there is plenty of accommodation in the city given it only fills a few times a year. Even if I believed that was true (which I don't), there might be accommodation available but it is the sort of accommodation that would put off any tourist from returning. The Leviathon, despite being iconic, is perhaps the most suitable example of this having not refurbished its accommodation rooms in decades (excluding their dining room). 

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but unfortunately its a reality in this city. I suggest that people take a look at their own offerings before they stand against some modern accommodation being erected in this city.  


Albie Benson's question

Albie Benson posed the question: ''Is there any city in the world that would turn down this opportunity, particularly in the present economic situation?''

Well, yes, there are. Cities like Venice, Vienna, Rome and Valletta are examples of beautiful heritage cities that would shudder at such a building dominating their cities' landscapes.
There are countless smaller heritage cities and towns that would have the same attitude towards an intrusion of this kind, no matter what the imagined economic benefits may be.

The Seychelles has a cap on building height to protect the environmental and natural integrity of their beautiful island nation. Durban wished it had put a cap on the height of its beach front and harbour front buildings - which now block the afternoon sun from the beaches and harbour esplanade, and this in a sunny and warm country.

We need all the sun we can get on our harbourfront area for reasons Dunedinites know only too well. Dunedin is not Singapore or Hong Kong and never will be. This hotel will be so dominant that the Dunedin CBD will look like its ancillary buildings.

Something strange

There is something strange here. This is such an extraordinarily improbable project for a small city at the end of the Earth. It appears to be set up to fail and split the community in the process.
There is no evidence that Chinese businessmen are breaking down the door to invest in Dunedin, and there have been plenty of opportunities over the past decade to acquire land almost anywhere in Dunedin and build pretty much anything (witness the orange Mitre 10 scar across the cityscape).
Now suddenly there is a mysterious unnamed group that wishes to occupy a scrappy piece of land between the railway and the wharf to a height of 96 metres.
As with the Aramoana Smelter, it seems cleverly designed to make business people salivate and those with a love of Dunedin heritage sweat. What is really going on? And what will happen when the project is declined, or worse, approved? [Abridged]


Surprise, surprise

The owner of the Leviathan is against it. A hotel/motel owner against competition? Shocking. Who didn't see that coming?

But it's OK, he has read the Rawlinsons Handbook, so now he's a fully-fledged Quantity Surveyor!  [Abridged]


The royal we

Sparrowhawk: I would be careful how you phrase that. "We" would imply you speak for the city, which you most certainly don't. A lot of us do appreciate it.
Perhaps you could invest $100m instead seeing as you 'do not appreciate it'. 


Well we don't appreciate it for our city. Get lost!

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