The Dunedin City Council was warned two weeks ago the
developers behind a proposed $100 million waterfront hotel
could walk away, because of mounting frustration at delays,
emails released yesterday show.
However, the emails also confirmed council staff were in
regular contact with Betterways Advisory Ltd's director,
Steve Rodgers, and the company's consultant traffic engineer,
offering updates and explaining delays.
The emails were released to the Otago Daily Times yesterday,
following an official information request, after hotel
developer Jing Song terminated a memorandum of understanding
with the council on Monday.
She blamed the council for failing to provide a completed
traffic report by a March 21 deadline, set as part of the
agreement, and for offering no ''updates or explanations'' to
explain the delays.
However, emails between March 10, when the two sides
announced their agreement, and March 21 were swapped by
council staff, its consultants and Andy Carr, of Carriageway
Consultants, acting for Betterways.
The emails discussed details of a March 17 workshop, held to
discuss solutions to traffic issues, as well as meeting
minutes and a draft report that followed.
Then, on Friday, March 21 - the date a completed traffic
report was due - council infrastructure and networks general
manager Tony Avery emailed an update to all parties,
including Mr Rodgers.
The update advised the March 17 workshop had been
''productive'', with three potential options identified to
address traffic issues, but more work was needed and a final
report was expected by March 25.
Mr Avery also acknowledged the report was due on March 21,
but added: ''I think it has been generally accepted that we
weren't going to meet that date.
''We are looking to progress things as quickly as possible
though as it is important that we establish whether there is
an acceptable traffic solution that will work for both
''Any questions, let me know.''
The following Monday, March 24, Mr Carr emailed
council workshop facilitator David Booth, of Octa Associates,
warning Ms Song wanted an update.
''I can't really maintain silence until the end of the week
without risking the professional relationship ... I will
endeavour to be non-specific in the dialogue, as the
alternative of saying that I'm not yet able to say anything
will probably go down very badly!''
He was advised by Mr Booth to call Ms Song, despite a later
email from Mr Rodgers - sent to Mr Avery on April 3 -
confirming workshop discussions were confidential.
More emails followed, including an update on March 25,
forwarded by council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose to former
Dunedin city councillor Syd Brown, who was acting as an
adviser to Betterways.
''Please feel free to share this with Jing as a guide to
timing,'' Dr Bidrose wrote to Mr Brown.
Then, at 9.12am on April 3, Mr Rodgers wrote back to Dr
Bidrose, Mr Avery and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, expressing
concern delays were continuing and calling for an update
''I am very concerned that my clients will view this lack of
response as the council not wanting to work with them and
that they may walk away.''
Mr Avery, responding from his cellphone less than an hour
later, said he was seeking an urgent update from the
council's consultants, but questioned communication within
''I'm assuming that you are receiving no information from
your traffic expert [Mr Carr] who was part of the workshop
and presumably is aware of what the traffic experts are
working through?''Mr Rodgers replied at lunchtime that
Betterways was receiving ''limited information'' from its
consultant ''as he was told that until the [traffic] report
was released it was confidential, thus the reason for
On April 8, Mr Booth emailed a traffic issues update to Mr
Avery, who forwarded it to Mr Rodgers and Mr Brown the same
Then, at lunchtime on Monday, April 14, Ms Song emailed Dr
Bidrose, setting a 4pm deadline for a completed traffic
The letter expressed Ms Song's ''extreme disappointment'' the
March 21 deadline had passed ''and no updates or explanations
from council have been provided, despite our repeated
Mr Avery emailed back at 1.26pm, forwarding her an earlier
update and again explaining the delays and process.
''We had assumed that your expert would have kept you
informed about the progress but clearly that hasn't happened.
''I can assure you that we are making every endeavour to
proceed with the necessary work as quickly as possible.''
Then, at 4.50pm, Mr Rodgers replied: ''As Jing has heard
nothing from you by 4pm as required by the letter sent
earlier today she has instructed me that the MOU is at an
end. She and [husband Ping Cao] will not be progressing with
Mr Avery replied at 5.33pm to Mr Rodgers, Ms Song and Mr
Brown, saying the council was ''at a loss to understand the
apparent problems in the Betterways communication channels
that has given rise to this situation''.
''We are, as always willing to continue on with the MOU