new version of Dunedin's controversial waterfront hotel could
be unveiled before the end of the year, after the developer
struck a deal with the Dunedin City Council.
However, plans for the five-star hotel and apartment tower
will first have to survive the scrutiny of council staff, and
receive a tick of approval from a new urban design panel to
be formed for the first time in Dunedin.
The project will also need to survive the barbs of opponents,
some of whom were quick to reiterate their concerns
But, if it does, the council has agreed to initiate a change
to its own district plan, prompting a public process that
could see the rezoning of the land, easing restrictions and
making it easier to build a hotel on the site.
Details of the deal between the Dunedin City Council and the
developer, Betterways Advisory Ltd, were unveiled at a packed
media conference fronted by Mayor Dave Cull and Betterways
director Steve Rodgers yesterday.
Mr Cull confirmed the two sides had signed a memorandum of
understanding, spelling out how they would work together to
try to address the issues facing the contentious project.
Mr Cull praised the deal as a ''partnership'' between the two
sides, who both wanted a five-star hotel in Dunedin, while Mr
Rodgers said they were now ''working together as a team''.
''This is important. This would be a major investment for the
city and very beneficial,'' Mr Cull said.
All options were on the table as the two sides looked for
ways to make the project work, Mr Cull said.
That included the hotel's height and appearance, although
Betterways remained firmly fixed on developing its land at 41
Wharf St, Mr Rodgers said.
Asked specifically whether Betterways would accept a
reduction in the height of the building, Mr Rodgers would
only say that ''everything is on the table and nothing is
''It depends on the design and the look [of the hotel]. That
may or may not affect the height.''
He would not speculate on whether a radically altered hotel
design might emerge at the other end of the process, but
hoped for a ''win-win''.
''I think the outcome will be very positive for the city.''
The agreement announced yesterday also aimed to avoid the
need for an expensive Environment Court battle, which Mr Cull
said could cost the council up to $300,000.
Betterways appealed last year's decision to decline consent
for the hotel, but the court process had remained on hold
while Mr Cull and Betterways talked about a possible way
Mr Cull said the deal reached meant council staff would work
directly with Betterways to try to resolve traffic and
''connectivity'' issues at the site over the coming weeks.
That included reconsidering the possibility of a pedestrian
bridge, crossing the main trunk railway line, to link the
hotel site and harbour basin with Queens Gardens and the
If solutions were agreed by both sides, the project would be
referred to a new urban design panel to consider.
The panel would look at broader issues, including the hotel's
height and appearance, to see if a compromise could be
Its membership would be agreed by both sides, but was
expected to include academic architectural experts and others
with relevant skills, recruited from within Dunedin and
nationally, Mr Cull said.
The panel would make a final recommendation to both sides,
but each would have to decide themselves whether to accept
the findings, Mr Cull said.
That process was expected to be completed before the end of
the year, and, if accepted, the council would initiate a plan
change to rezone the land, council chief executive Dr Sue
The plan change process would include public submissions and
a hearing, but the zoning change would aim to suit the
requirements of the hotel and avoid the need for a fresh
resource consent application and hearing afterwards, she
It was possible the council could eventually find itself back
in the Environment Court, facing an appeal against the plan
change, but the process would be more onerous for opponents
trying to stop the hotel, Dr Bidrose said.
Unlike the existing appeal, opponents would be on the
opposite side of the argument to the council, and would have
to do more of the work themselves - and carry more of the
cost - rather than simply backing the council's position, she
While it was hoped the urban design panel would be able to
address most people's concerns, opponents had a ''democratic
right'' to object which needed to be respected, she said.
The urban design panel was a new approach in Dunedin, but had
been used extensively in Auckland and Wellington with good
results, Dr Bidrose said.
She expected the cost to the council would be between $30,000
and $50,000 for members' fees, but this could rise if the
council needed help from planning consultants to assess
However, Mr Cull said that would be ''a bargain for both
sides'' compared with the cost of an Environment Court
The approach could also set a precedent for the council and
could be used for other investment and development proposals
in the city in future, Mr Cull said.
Traffic issues concerning the site would be a ''particularly
thorny'' issue to address, which was why it was being done
first, before the council committed to the cost of a urban
design panel, Dr Bidrose said.
However, Mr Rodgers said the issues were not ''insurmountable
by any means'' and had been close to resolution during last
year's consent hearing.