Pursuing a vision of harbourside redevelopment in Dunedin
has so far cost the city's ratepayers more than $2.6 million,
it has been confirmed.
The revelation, prompted by Otago Daily Times
inquiries, has led the Otago Chamber of Commerce to label the
Dunedin City Council's ''grandiose'' plan a mistake.
It has also prompted Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, who was an
early critic of the proposal, to suggest it should never have
got off the ground.
''If we could have our time again, we would not have run this
project ... It is a lot of money,'' Mr Cull said yesterday.
His comments came after council staff released a detailed
breakdown of the $2,614,485 spent by the council on the
harbourside plan change process since 2005.
The amount included almost $1.7 million spent to buy two
properties at 20 and 30 Thomas Burns St, which were thought
to be needed to improve access to the waterfront in future.
The bill also included $400,000 in legal costs from the
long-running mediation process that followed, as well as
$315,000 on hearing, consultant and other ''sundry'' expenses
incurred by the council.
A $200,000 payment from the council to settle with Dunedin
developer Tim Barnett, confirmed in August this year, was
The payment, together with a public apology from the council,
followed the council's decision to place a notice of
requirement on Mr Barnett's property at 41 Wharf St, stalling
his own plans. The council withdrew the notice in 2010.
The figures showed the council's costs had continued to
mount, even as the plan change zone shrank, in the face of
stiff opposition from the chamber and affected businesses.
The group lodged an Environment Court appeal, prompting
mediation with the council that led to a dramatically reduced
harbourside zone, which was signed off last year.
The reduced zone allowed redevelopment of only a smaller area
south of the Steamer Basin, while industrial land to the
north was spared.
Chamber chief executive John Christie told the ODT the
results, and the cost for ratepayers, showed the council's
''grandiose'' plan had not been ''well thought through''.
Some ''very entrenched views'' had led to the courts and
mediation, ramping up the costs, which was ''really
unfortunate'', he said.
However, he defended the chamber's opposition to the plans,
saying jobs were at stake and the appeal was ''in the best
interests of the city''.
''It was an action that we took that we wish we didn't have
to take ... It's a significant amount of money that we'd
rather see used on projects that are more positive for the
The ODT understands the vision - formally unveiled in
2005 - was largely the brainchild of former council chief
executive Jim Harland, who quit the organisation in early
It was then developed by the council and Port Otago
subsidiary Chalmers Properties Ltd, which owned much of the
land in the area.
The plan originally envisaged a harbourside full of
apartments, bars, a hotel, tree-lined boulevards, a public
square and even an ''Amsterdam-style'' canal, focused largely
in the industrial area north of Steamer Basin.
Mr Harland did not respond to an ODT request for
comment, but Mr Cull said the project had progressed because
''back then, people in charge thought it an idea worth
However, Mr Cull said the council could still sell the land
purchased for harbourside, if needed, and planning rules had
been freed up in what remained of the zone.
''I hear some exciting ideas about what that part of town
might become. Some of these would be good for the city, if
Former councillor Colin Weatherall - who was asked to handle
the mediation process for the council - said the size of plan
change meant mediation was always going to be an expensive
However, the results had provided ''certainty'' for
businesses in the area, while allowing some redevelopment
as-of-right in the reduced zone, and would be ''good for the
city at some stage in the future'', he believed.
Mr Christie said the council's costs did not include those
incurred by the chamber, its partners in the appeal, and
other businesses opposed to the plan change.
Together, the chamber and its five partners had probably
spent between $50,000 and $100,000 on the appeal and
Including the cost of staff time involved would add
''hundreds of thousands'' more to the bill, and other
businesses acting alone would have incurred their own costs,
preparing submissions or engaging consultants, he said.
However, if unopposed, the plan change would have threatened
businesses and jobs, he believed.
''It was a lengthy process that we went through in the best
interests not just of the commercial sector, but Dunedin.''
DCC's habourside costs - $2.6m
• Legal costs - $401,660
• Settlement - $200,000
• Other costs - $315,633
• Capital costs - $1,697,192
• Total - $2,614,485
Capital costs of $1,697,192 comprising:
• 2005-06 - purchase of 20 Thomas Burns St - $497,500
• 2011-12 - purchase of 30 Thomas Burns St - $1,199,692