All quiet on Carisbrook future

There are few signs of progress at the former Carisbrook site in South Dunedin, one year on from the sale of the old ground to construction company Calder Stewart. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.One year on from the sale of Carisbrook and the diggers have gone, taking the grandstands with them and leaving behind a vacant lot full of muddy puddles and unanswered questions. Chris Morris reports.

The turnstiles that once ushered fans on to a field of dreams now stand silently beside a muddy wasteland in the middle of South Dunedin.

But, one year on from the sale of Carisbrook, signs of progress for the redevelopment of the former stadium site remain as elusive as ever.

The former sports ground's grandstands and playing surface have gone, and so, too, have the mechanical excavators, leaving behind only muddy puddles and rubble behind a security fence.

But what - if anything - will eventually rise from the mud remains a closely guarded secret that the ground's new owner, construction company Calder Stewart, is still not prepared to discuss.

Repeated requests by the Otago Daily Times for interviews or updates have gone unanswered, or been rebuffed, by the company since last year.

And, contacted yesterday, Calder Stewart development director Alan Stewart remained tight-lipped, saying he was not yet prepared to discuss details of any potential developments on the site.

Mr Stewart would only say the company continued to ''evaluate development options'' for the property, and was discussing plans with ''a number of parties who may potentially occupy the site''.

''These are commercial discussions which are not a matter we'd disclose to the media without client approval.''

Dunedin City Council staff, contacted yesterday, also confirmed they were yet to receive any applications for building or resource consent for the site.

The council was also yet to receive any of the $3.3 million sale price agreed last year, with terms which gave Calder Stewart up to three years to pay.

Instead, the company had made interest-only payments on the amount owing, amounting to $79,562, for the period to December 31 last year, council financial controller Maree Clarke confirmed.

A second payment, covering interest for the period to June 30 this year, was now due and was in the process of being invoiced, she said.

Otherwise, council staff were also in the dark about the company's plans, council infrastructure and networks general manager Tony Avery confirmed.

And, down at ground level, the only real sign of activity at the site has been the demolition of the old stadium itself.

A subdivision consent issued by the council in November last year also allowed the historic Neville St Stand turnstile building to be separated from the rest of the site and protected.

The company's $200,000 bond - paid to the council on top of the sale price - had also been refunded, after Calder Stewart complied with a condition to demolish the old ground's grandstands by the end of last year.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said at the time the condition was designed to encourage the company to ''get on with it'', as ''from the city or the community's point of view, nobody wants the thing sitting there mouldering away forever''.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Cull said his comments last year related to the removal of the stadium's grandstands, not the redevelopment of the cleared site, and he did not want to criticise Calder Stewart.

He was yet to hear ''anything'' else about the company's plans, and did not expect to, but the council had been given an assurance the site would not simply be ''land banked'' by Calder Stewart.

''We all want development there as fast as possible ... It is only a year. I hope their plans can come to fruition as soon as possible.''

Mr Stewart did not respond to specific questions about any time frame the company was working towards for the site.

Instead, when asked, he would only say: ''When we're in a position to provide further information, I'm happy to advise.''

Property expert

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I am glad its gone. It kind of put a full stop to the whole debacle for me. Just a little more pain watching the bulldozers run through the $14 million corporate boxes. But what is that compared to over $200 million? Meh, a mere nothing. So much waste and short-sightedness, mismanagment,  dithering and covering up. I would be surprised if there was nothing come to the surface under investigation. It will be no one's fault though of course. I would have signed that deal too given the chance. What a gift. No wonder they used the Christchurch methodology for sustainable building practice. Now just two years to wait for our $3 million. Hooray! I say share it out amongst the ratepayers.

A cynical outlook I know...

Knowing Dunedin, it'll remain a landscape of muddy puddles and debris for at least a decade.

Bad decision again

What Mr Cull forgets is that the presence of the condition to demolish before Christmas (which was barely met) caused demolition to be done in a hurry and precluded the recycling of much of the material.

It should have been possible to recoup significant value from the materials on site, had the demolition been done in a more careful manner.

Since the site has not been developed in the 8 months since that deadline, this represents a missed opportunity.  To essentially "gift" a valuable site on an interest-only basis with 3 years to pay and no written condition in the contract precluding quick resale, it makes me wonder if those in charge actually understand the property market or simply rubberstamp what they have been advised by staff.

I wonder if this transaction will be investigated when the new Chief Executive gets deeper into the City Property enquiry.  

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