Excitement is growing about the potential for fresh
development of Dunedin's harbourside, including a new marine
science institute featuring a public aquarium being considered
by the University of Otago.
The Otago Daily Times understands university staff
have already held preliminary talks with Dunedin City Council
staff about a possible new marine science institute in the
harbourside zone, on the south side of steamer basin.
The Otago Regional Council has also met Betterways Advisory
Ltd, which wants to build a waterfront hotel in the city, to
discuss the ORC's vacant waterfront site, it has been
The DCC has already signed a memorandum of understanding with
Betterways to try to progress a hotel on the company's
preferred site at 41 Wharf St.
The agreement included talk of a new pedestrian and cycling
bridge linking the waterfront and inner city, likely to be
paid for at least in part by the council, if it proceeded.
The ODT was told this week the bridge project made
more sense in light of other development activity being
discussed, until now, behind closed doors.
And, as well as the big-ticket items, there was also said to
be increasing talk among private landowners and businesses in
the area about the potential for further development.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull confirmed he was aware of discussions
between ''a number of parties'', including between the ORC
The ORC's waterfront site had been rezoned for hotel use,
although Betterways still wanted to focus on its existing
site, Mr Cull said.
However, he saw ''enormous potential'' for development of the
harbourside area if some - or all - of the development talk
turned into action.
''We see the potential that some other cities have managed to
realise better than Dunedin to connect their city centre and
harbour or coast.
''It would be wonderful to develop that for the benefit of
the city,'' he said.
Council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose confirmed the council
had been approached by ''a large number'' of other parties
interested in the area, while other landowners and businesses
were also talking.
As the area developed and more people were drawn in, other
businesses would want to move to the area, she predicted.
The university's aquarium plans could be one of those
drawcards, and talks with the council could signal the
institution's intention to move away from the old Portobello
aquarium site, which was closed to the public in 2012.
That was yet to be confirmed, but sciences
pro-vice-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter said, when contacted, a
harbourside development was ''an option we have been looking
The university had other building projects to prioritise, but
was interested in a research and teaching facility that also
engaged the public, and the steamer basin would be a suitable
area, he said.
''There's quite a lot that has to be done before we can even
commit to it really.''
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead also confirmed when contacted
talks had taken place with Betterways, although he would not
However, the ORC planned to review the continued need to hold
on to its waterfront site later this year, which could prompt
a decision to press ahead the council's headquarters plan, or
to sell the site, he said.
''It's a harbourside site that's now clear and there's huge
development potential ... what that development would be, I
have no idea at this stage.''
Whether the council would sell the land to Betterways ''will
be a question that may arise depending on where their process
with the [DCC], and the MoU, ends up'', he said.
''That's a question for the future.''
Prof Hunter said the city need only look at waterfront
developments in Auckland and Wellington to see what could be
''To me, it's pretty logical that the city should be thinking
about a development like that.''
The signs of progress came after the $2.6 million cost of the
harbourside plan change process was criticised by the Otago
Chamber of Commerce last year, after it led to only a reduced
area being rezoned.
Mr Cull said at the time positive developments could yet
follow, and Dr Bidrose said yesterday activity in the area
could pick up as the economy did.
''That's exciting for us as a city,'' she said.