Vandervis raises issue of DVML spending

The fundamental review of Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium operation will consider claims of unauthorised spending on im provements by the company running the troubled venue, it has been confirmed.

The assurance came as councillors considered Dunedin Venues Management Ltd's six-month financial results, and its draft statement of intent, at yesterday's Dunedin City Council meeting.

The documents showed DVML was now expecting losses totalling $3.8 million over the next three years, beginning with a $1.4 million loss in 2014-15, $1 million in 2015-16 and $1.4 million in 2016-17.

Councillor Lee Vandervis, addressing yesterday's meeting, said he remained concerned about the company's record of spending on improvements, followed by pleas of poverty to the council.

That included DVML's earlier decision to spend $1.2 million on temporary seating, despite only being authorised to invest up to $1 million without first seeking council approval, he told the meeting.

The company had also invested in ''grow lights'' to help maintain the playing surface, despite a previous council decision not to fund the equipment, based on reassurances it would not be needed, he told the meeting.

And, last year, DVML spent $166,000 adding more toilets and a lift stop inside the stadium's south stand, which Cr Vandervis yesterday described as a ''fairly substantial'' upgrade of the venue.

He told yesterday's meeting he wanted to know how such a cash-strapped company could spend ''significant'' sums on improvements without council approval and then come to the council with a budget shortfall.

The spending ''just seems to be part of a pattern'', he told the meeting.

''I'm wondering if there's anything we, as a council, can do to rein in what is a massive hole in the ratepayers' [budget],'' he said.

Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chairman Graham Crombie said he was not familiar with the details of each example raised by Cr Vandervis, including how they were approved.

However, he suggested DVML's board would have considered its budget, and the business case for each, before deciding whether to invest in improvements.

Despite that, he noted Cr Vandervis' concerns about the ''historic'' spending and said DVML's capital budget was among items that would be reassessed as part of the stadium review already under way.

Cr Vandervis also urged the review team to consider Carisbrook's management as it searched for cost-saving initiatives, saying earlier promises Forsyth Barr Stadium would be cheaper to operate had proven to be incorrect.

Councillors voted to accept the documents, with Cr Vandervis voting against both.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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