Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Darren Burden says he has no regrets about quitting to take a new role in Christchurch. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Darren Burden
says he has no regrets about quitting to take a new role in
Christchurch. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Darren Burden says he could one day find himself
competing against the stadium he helped to build in Dunedin.
However, the man in charge of Forsyth Barr Stadium has
defended his decision to accept a new role - and possibly
overseeing a new roofed stadium - in Christchurch.
Mr Burden's time as chief executive of Dunedin Venues
Management Ltd, which runs Dunedin's roofed stadium and other
venues, officially ends later today.
He will instead become the general manager of Vbase, the
Christchurch City Council's venue management company.
In his new role he will be responsible for Vbase venues
including Christchurch's temporary AMI Stadium and, possibly,
the indoor venue earmarked to replace it.
Mr Burden - in his first interview since his surprise
resignation last month - was yesterday candid about his
reasons for leaving just over a year into his five-year
He said he was not quitting a sinking ship, but had been
approached in September by a recruitment company wanting him
to consider a role at Vbase.
Initial talks led to a job offer that was too good to refuse
and the decision to quit had been ''relatively easy'' on a
professional level, he said.
He was sad to be leaving Dunedin, where his family had
settled, and saying goodbye to DVML's ''excellent'' staff,
but had no regrets about taking up the offer.
''At the end of the day, I have to do what's best for me and
what's best for my family. I can't control the timing of when
these opportunities crop up.''
Mr Burden said it was the ''long-term challenge'' of the new
role that appealed, not an inflated pay packet, which would
be ''no better'' than his DVML contract.
''I'm not moving because of money. I'm moving because this is
a role that really resonated with me.''
His departure followed the exit of former DVML chief
executive David Davies last year, and that of the company's
commercial manager, Guy Hedderwick, earlier this year.
Despite that, Mr Burden said there were no problems within
DVML and he was not quitting a sinking ship.
If he had not been approached about the Vbase role, ''I
wouldn't be moving on''.
''People have opportunities that come up in their lives and
they decide to take them.''
Initially, his new role would be to rebuild Vbase, oversee
existing venues and integrate those - such as the
Christchurch Town Hall - being rebuilt.
In time, the role could include oversight of a new indoor
stadium earmarked to replace AMI Stadium, and Mr Burden
admitted his experience with Dunedin's roofed venue would
have appealed to Vbase.
However, there were no guarantees such a venue would ever be
built in Christchurch.
There was likely to be considerable public debate in
Christchurch, as in Dunedin, and building a new venue in time
for the British and Irish Lions rugby tour in 2017, as had
been suggested, would be an ''extremely tight'' time frame.
He said ''something will have to be done'' in time, but only
after Christchurch's more pressing priorities, rebuilding
housing and core infrastructure, were addressed.
And if an indoor stadium in Christchurch was built, Mr Burden
expected both competition and co-operation between the
respective cities' roofed venues.
''But that's a big 'if' at this stage. Certainly, there will
no doubt be some time in the future where there may well be
some competition between the two, but likewise there's going
to be a huge number of opportunities ... to work together.''
Mr Burden's departure from Dunedin marked the end of an
involvement in the city's stadium project stretching back to
2006 and including roles with Arrow International, the
Carisbrook Stadium Trust and DVML.
He had developed a thick skin over the years, coping with
public criticism and abusive anonymous letters, but remained
proud of the stadium and the achievements of DVML staff.
That included work to improve the company's finances over the
past year, turning an operating loss of $302,000 for 2011-12
into a operating profit of $2.46 million in the past
Despite that, the company continued to struggle under the
weight of a $4 million annual rent requirement, to be paid
each year by DVML to Dunedin Venues Ltd to service stadium
That converted the operating profit into an overall loss
totalling $986,000 in 2012-13. However, that was still a
considerable improvement on the $3.2 million loss the
Mr Burden said the figures showed the company was doing all
it could to improve its financial position, but also that the
arrangements underpinning the stadium debt repayment model
needed to be reconsidered.
''I think something has got to change at some point in the
In the meantime, the prospect of regularly breaking even -
let alone making a profit - would remain ''a really tough
challenge'' for DVML, although another improvement was
predicted for 2013-14.
Despite that, the stadium was delivering an economic and
social return to the city, with estimates that October's
Bledisloe Cup test match alone was worth $9 million for the
city's economy, Mr Burden said.
He could not say when the next big concert was likely to be
confirmed, but regular talks with promoters were continuing.
And, despite the public flak, long hours and late nights, Mr
Burden said he would ''absolutely'' miss the stadium.
''Seven years of my life has been poured into the stadium,''
Burden career path
Sept 2012 - present: Dunedin Venues Management Ltd
chief executive, Dunedin.
Jan 2010 - Sept 2012: DVML operations director,
Jan 2007 - Jan 2010: Carisbrook Stadium Trust chief
executive and development director, Dunedin.
Nov 2004 - Jan 2007: Arrow International strategy