ORC leaves door open

Jing Song
Jing Song
A multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Dunedin's waterfront could still be on the table, but the ball is firmly in the court of hotel developer Jing Song to be part of it, the Otago Regional Council says.

Ms Song, a director of Betterways Advisory Ltd, is refusing to be drawn on her plans, after scrapping an agreement with the Dunedin City Council to try to build the hotel at 41 Wharf St.

She told the Otago Daily Times she was not yet ready to commit to a new project.

''We are considering whether we are still doing something, or not, in Dunedin.''

The comments came after it was confirmed the ORC had prepared ''high level'' plans for the redevelopment of the city's harbour basin - including a waterfront hotel - late last year.

The plans were among documents released to the ODT last week, following an official information request.

They showed a new marine science institute/aquarium, ORC headquarters and waterfront hotel, clustered together on the southern edge of the harbour basin.

Emails also released indicated Betterways' representatives were interested in a possible development on ORC land as recently as April.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker told the ODT the concept plans were prepared by Mason and Wales Architects - at the request of a senior ORC manager - following media reports Ms Song might consider shifting her hotel to the ORC's vacant site.

They aimed to show how a new, yet-to-be-confirmed ORC waterfront headquarters could fit with a waterfront hotel and the University of Otago's suggested aquarium development.

While the university had since placed its aquarium plans on hold, other parts of the plan could still be options for the future, Mr Bodeker confirmed.

Ms Song had expressed interest in developing all three buildings - as a back-up to its hotel plans at 41 Wharf St - during a meeting with Mr Bodeker and others in Auckland on December 4 last year, Mr Bodeker said.

Also at the meeting were Ms Song's husband, Ping Cao, ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and DCC staff.

The concept plans had not been considered by ORC councillors, nor any decisions made, and the ORC was still evaluating its need for a new headquarters.

That work was expected to be completed later this year, and would determine what the ORC wanted to do with its waterfront headquarters site.

''That's the big 'if', and that work hasn't been completed yet,'' Mr Bodeker said.

A hotel development on the site was still an option that could be considered, including if Betterways was to approach the ORC, he said.

''If it did, and that was a viable option, then we would discuss it.''

Mr Bodeker denied the ORC had dropped the ball earlier this year, after being asked by the DCC to discuss a hotel on its site with Betterways' representatives.

That request led to the December 4 meeting in Auckland, after which Mr Bodeker wrote to Ms Song, stating he would respond to questions arising from the meeting by late January this year.

No letter was sent, prompting a follow-up query from Betterways solicitor Phil Page to the ORC on April 8, days before Betterways scrapped its agreement with the DCC, the emails showed.

Mr Bodeker emailed back, saying he and Mr Woodhead had instead agreed to a DCC request to send the answers to the DCC, which was to forward them to Betterways, the emails showed.

However, the DCC withheld the information until April 29, when it was eventually emailed to a Betterways representative, former city councillor Syd Brown, along with an explanation for the delay.

The information related to the ownership of the sites, split between the ORC and Chalmers Properties, a subsidiary of ORC-owned company Port Otago, and surrounding land.

Council infrastructure and networks manager Tony Avery, in the email, said the DCC had been ''mindful'' of Betterways' desire to focus on options for 41 Wharf St, and held back the material to not ''cut across or complicate that focus''.

Mr Bodeker told the ODT he was ''not concerned at all'' with the approach, as it was the city council that had the ''major relationship'' with Betterways.

Ms Song did not blame the ORC for the delay, but would not be drawn on whether it had affected her enthusiasm for a development on their land.

She would not say how long it would take to decide her next move, or whether Betterways would consider approaching the ORC in future.

''Whether they want to approach us ... it's really totally up to them.''

Mr Bodeker stressed the council was not in talks ''either formally or informally'' to pursue a hotel development on its site.

And even if the ORC decided to pursue a development or sale of the site, it would not ''necessarily'' approach Betterways directly, he said.

That meant the ball was in Betterways' court, he confirmed.

''They certainly haven't come near us since they made the decision around the Wharf St site. Maybe that could be a conclusion - that they've moved on elsewhere in their thinking.''



ORC's desire to spend

I thought at the time that the ORC's proposal to build a large glass palace on prime waterfront land was some sort of joke and they may have been overcome by a dose of reality when it didn't proceed. They then announced that they needed to spend $1 million on a council chamber for periodic meetings, saying that meeting in the local bingo hall was not appropriate. Really? I would have thought that utilising an existing building in the community for minimal cost was entirely appropriate for an organisation spending other people's money, but this and the fact that the waterfront idea is still being considered illustrates the culture of entitlement and grandiosity in what should be a small service office. I would say bring on amalgamation, except I am not confident it wouldn't result in the hiring of numerous "change managers" and an increase in total staff numbers. Perhaps Roger Douglas is looking for work.


I'm with you there Jimmy, only they should not exist at all. They are just leeches on the ratepayer. Time to get rid of the whole outfit.


Downsize ORC

The Otago Regional Council thinks we must have short memories: they must think that we have forgotten about the consultation on whether they should spend Otago's money on a new office building. The clear answer from the people was no. And if they had the courage to ask us again the answer would still be no.

One reason why they don't need a new building is that the one they have has more than enough space - it complies with the guidelines for Government buildings. The ORC staff have failed to justify the proposal and the ORC councilors do not seem able to make a properly considered decision about the matter.

Also the ORC is approximately 100% overstaffed. They only need two staff: one to manage the bus contracts, and one to collect the rates payments. The two staff could be accommodated in a caravan in the FB Stadium carpark. The money saved could be used by Otago ratepayers to have more enjoyable lives. Since it was created in 1989, the ORC has not justified its existence. It is a waste of money and its poor decision-making is a risk to all Otago citizens.[Abridged]

Hotel and waterfront developments

I was opposed to the thin pencil hotel design. However like many who opposed the hotel I actually want one for the city. Lets hope anyone that builds on on that location can design a nice one that is sympathetic to the surrounding environment and not something out of the 1960s.

As for the ORC headquarters being located here - this is also worthy of consideration. The ORC offices are frankly a dog and really people need a much better space than what they have at present. Bring it on I say. A development like this would spur waterfront development and can only be good - Look at Wynyard in Auckland or Wellington. I guess the ORC are funding this from the exhorbitant rentals they charge through Chalmers Property

Good luck I only hope it happens soon. Not like the normal 25 year decision making process that prevails in this city.

Waterfront not suitable for administration

Why does the ORC want to use prime waterfront land for administration? Surely it should be used for tourism or hospitality industries. Not for office space! ORC - there to serve Otago..... I will wait and see.

New waterfront headquarters

So the ORC has suddenly found some money again for a flash new waterfront HQ. That didn't take long to pop back up on the scene, did it? Mr Bodeker, you talk a good talk, but clearly you are no better than the rest of them. Where is the infrastructure work in our community promised to be carried out before winter? What's with charging ratepayers for their own infomation? You should be ashamed of yourselves. [Abridged]

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