Chamber resists apartment units

John Christie.
John Christie.
The Otago Chamber of Commerce opposes residential development of a historic Dunedin building - arguing the proposal has shades of the costly and largely aborted harbourside rezoning.

But building owner Russell Lund has struck back, accusing the chamber of ''knee-jerk nimbyism''.

Thirteen submissions supported the proposed redevelopment of the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Co Ltd building, while four were opposed and one was neutral.

Chamber chief executive John Christie said, in the chamber's submission, that it opposed mixed use of the building, in Thomas Burns St, as it was within the Port 2 zone.

If resource consent is approved, Mr Lund plans to restore the exterior of the category 2 142-year-old building and redevelop the second floor into a 24-unit apartment complex.

''Previously, the chamber opposed the council's plan change 7, which was looking to rezone harbourside land to mixed use, as existing jobs could be lost along with any future job prospects,'' Mr Christie said in the submission.

''After a long process of mediation ... it was agreed that the north side of the harbour basin was best kept for industrial activities.

''It would be disappointing to see individual consents granted.''

The harbourside plan change - which resulted in a smaller area south of the Steamer Basin being rezoned to mixed use, while industrial land to the north was spared - led to protracted negotiations between the council and affected parties and, eventually, cost ratepayers more than $2.6 million.

Mr Christie told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the chamber was not opposed to redevelopment of the building, only the proposed residential use.

The chamber was concerned about the residential redevelopment, given its proximity to businesses and land with heavy industrial uses and the effect residential development could have.

''We aren't opposed to it [just] to be opposed to it. We just want to protect the jobs the city is struggling to retain,'' he said.

Mr Lund said he ''cannot understand how the Chamber of Commerce can want to stop this application in its tracks when the businesses most affected adopt a more reasonable position''.

Consent was also opposed by Kaan's Catering Supplies Ltd, ESCO Dunedin Pty Ltd and Farra Engineering Ltd. All were concerned about reverse sensitivity of allowing residential property in a heavy industrial zone.

Port Otago submitted the application should be refused or granted with strict conditions, including that residents agree to a ''no-complaints covenant'' to show they were aware of the noisy external environment.

''The chamber is supposed to promote development in Dunedin, not indulge in knee-jerk nimbyism,'' Mr Lund said.

''What use do they propose for the building?

''The building is deteriorating, it needs a use, some attention, money and TLC to preserve its future,'' Mr Lund said.

It was ''zero hour'' for the building and ''an economic imperative'' that a sustainable use was found for it soon, he said.

Dunedin City Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said a recommending report was being prepared and a consent hearing would be held on Tuesday, August 19, starting at 9am.

A decision would be made within 15 working days of the hearing, he said.

Should have listened to Bill Sutch

Dunedin was the industrial capital of NZ. In the thirties, Dr Sutch campaigned for an industrial economy. Did we listen? No, we chose agrarian.

Somewhere over the railroad...

"The best cities in the world have found a balanced solution to their harbourfronts and these include (and generally prioritise) residential and commercial development."

I suppose it depends what one considers makes a "best" city, DunedinCitizen. Sprawling over a large area so that any bustle and buzz evaporates into the emptiness, is this an indication of "bestness"? If so spreading business even thinner, extending across the railway line, is just what the doctor ordered. Dunedin shows no sign of growing either in population or prosperity. The internet poses many questions about the future of retail. This is not helped by the city debt, for which an increasingly desperate council finds extra ways of extracting money from us such as greater charges for parking as well as rates rises away ahead of the rise in average incomes.

So why one earth would it be a good idea to dispossess those businesses that are currently occupying the wharf area, productive companies that make and mend and distribute and service? Sparkling with new logos they may not be, they've got more practical concerns than gussying up their buildings. If the council had another rush of dizzying imaginitis and decided to re-zone that area we would not see new people by the plane-load coming here to drink coffee beside the sea, or move into apartments across the railway line.

But the firms that carry out the business in that part of town now, sure there are other places they could relocate to, but would they? That's a serious question. Faced with the need to move from the premises that are fitted out to their requirements for efficient operation, faced with the need to build anew or move into more expensive premises, will they decide to move closer to larger markets? Be in no doubt new premises will be more expensive. That's a lesson from Christchurch. When people are forced to move, landlords and sellers know they can take advantage of desperation and charge far more than was possible in an un-forced market.

People can be pushed so far, then a point comes when they refuse to take it any longer, they go off and do something else. I strongly advise that we stop pushing the people who are still here, still producing, still trading, still employing. [Abridged]

Lund apartments

While it is true that there may be other places in Dunedin to build or renovate apartments, Mr. Lund owns this building and has presented a very convincing case. While the harbour area may be important for certain businesses it cannot and should not be the city's long term plan - otherwise the city has no future.  There may be a few businesses that need access to the harbour but thye are the ones that need to provide justification zoning protection. Clearly other areas  in and around Dunedin need to be developed (what about the former site of Carisbrook - before it was sold off of course).  The best cities in the world have found a balanced solution to their harbourfronts and these include (and generally prioritise) residential and commercial development. A beautiful new hotel or apartment complex along with cafes and shops, in conjunction with some commercial water-based physical activities is long overdue in Dunedin. Let's find a solution to the industrial land problem so that we create new opportunities allowing the city to realise its full potential. This is not rocket science - let's prove we are a can-do city.

Not expected to set a precedent

Whatever the clientele of Mr Lund’s apartments, the proposal is expected not to have a precedent-setting effect on the zone. This is partly because it is on the very edge of the Port 2 and Industrial zone and partly because the Loan and Mercantile building is part of a recognised heritage area, the Queen’s Gardens Precinct. The Customhouse is also a member of this precinct but the industrial and port zoned land to its east and north is not.

The building houses no job-generating activities at the moment and hasn’t for some years. Those activities undertaken in the building in the past 50 years (I was myself a driver for Stewarts in the late 1970s) have contributed to the building’s decline. Apartment dwellers tend to be more concerned in the appearance of the building they inhabit than transport firms or entertainment venues and so I welcome this partcular proposed use.

The Loan and Merc’s inclusion in the Queen’s Gardens heritage area makes it a candidate for special treatment. Its appearance and history make it a building for which all stops need to be pulled. However, the problem of reverse sensitivities have to be addressed and the planner believes that covenants alone are not sufficient. He believes the occupants of the building will require some relief from the properly noisy activities undertaken in the surrounding area. And while I don’t believe mechanical ventilation is desirable, of course sound-proofing measures should be taken. A proposal that meets this concern should prove acceptable to its industrial neighbours. And a proposal that restores the building giving it a use for the future is one that should be greeted enthusiastically by all.

All for one or jobs for many?

Mr Lund's 24 apartments will not be low end digs, they will be high end apartments. The residents who purchase them won't want noise, dust or vibrations 24/7.  Those who currently reside there are in low end digs in an area not zoned for residences & of course they wont complain about noise etc because they'll get kicked out of their cheap rental spaces.

People saying the CoC needs to 'pull their heads in' obviously think that one man generating more personal wealth for himself is more important than the retention of hundreds of jobs held by honest hard working Dunedinites.

This area is zoned Industry for a reason and DCC needs to protect the jobs currently located in the vicinity. If the DCC changes the zone to mixed use then how many other high end apartment blocks will be built. An increase in residential or hospitality numbers will eventually see industry forced out. the businesses generate large amounts of work in Dunedin and therefore generate significant money back into the economy & being exporters they are bringing NEW money into the economy.

There are hundreds of historic buildings in designated residential areas. Mr Lund should consider those buildings before forcing land use changes and putting hundreds of jobs at risk.



Not like the hotel

The 28-storey apartment/hotel complex was not turned down because the site is zoned for industrial use. Its industrial zoning was the reason for the application being notified. The 28-storey building was rejected because it presented insuperable problems for management of traffic and because it destroyed the aims and objectives of the district plan regarding the character of the area.

Developing the Loan and Mercantile building into an apartment complex is confronted by the same initial issue: it must be notified because the site is zoned Port 2. However, that site does not present insuperable problems of traffic management; nor does restoring and redevoloping that building destroy the character of the area. In fact restoring that building with a future use enhances the character of the area.

Since restoring the Loan and Mercantile building would be such a desirable outcome of this proposal, it would be good to hear the Chamber of Commerce supporting it and looking past the issues of reverse sensitivity and loss of industrial sites with something of the enthusiasm they expressed for the rightly rejected 28-storey dunger.

Sound idea, strong building

I'm with kevy and Southgal. Besides, people are coming and going around this spot all the time. A couple of doors along the historic Wharf Hotel continues trade, and across the road is Customhouse Restaurant. The Monarch and Tiakina are working their sailings. Numbers of people reside in the harbourside area today, that's not stopping Farra or anyone else going about their business.

Given the scale of the industrially zoned land area on the Dunedin Harbourside there's every reason to make this tiny corner of the port work better for the general public. Building owner Russell Lund deserves a prize for this one. Earlier news coverage (ODT 16.7.14) included great photos by Peter McIntosh, showing the amazing interior - ripe for staged conversion. The hearings will be interesting, expect to see apartments any day soon! Alas, the Chamber and pals look a little silly, already.

Chamber resisting apartments

Some good, albeit emotional arguments have been put forth about the Chamber's resistance to the Lund apartments. Sadly, any argument using protection of the waterfront as the saviour or developer of jobs for Dunedin is misplaced. This is not to say that the entire waterfront needs to be rezoned for residential use. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are particular individuals in Dunedin that are willing to protect the interests of the few at the expense of the many.
The fact that someone was willing to transform a classic, vacated building into a modern living space in Dunedin should have everyone excited and grateful. Anything, including allowances for noise, can be negotiated. Dunedin lost an amazing opportunity or a new hotel that would have launched a new harbour living space that is long overdue in Dunedin - one of the world's last holdouts in terms of developings its harbour. This city is facing huge challenges - the solution is to embrace change - not at any cost - but with a vision of the future.
There is a lot of land around Dunedin if one cares to look and if the appropriate authorities are willing to do some rezoning. However, the biggest challenge is identifying those individuals who are fighting change because it threatens their particular interests. Dunedin has the potential for an exciting future but based on the recent resistance to both the waterfront hotel and Mr. Lund's building many of us fear that Dunedin will slowly fade from any position of importance in NZ - becoming just another small town.  Many of us want to be optimistic but we are slowly losing hope.

Don't mess with existing users

"If memory serves Arc was ordered to soundproof their walls as apartment dwellers had complained about the noise."  You're right,  Fernfrond.  It was a ludicrous situation.  The developer should have been held responsible by the tenants for providing accommodation of appropriate standard, and the DCC should never have put their jackboot on Arc's throat.  This is why all developments in new areas where there is existing use should have to alter or adapt their plans.  It should not be the responsibility of the existing, complying users to pay for alterations, or be forced out, to benefit newcomers who have decided to change property usage in the area.  This must be made clear in any permission given for alteration of use, and also in contracts with all subsequent users of the altered property - fair warning so no whining, OK?  When this can be done I'm for residential opportunities to live in "different" environments.  Whrn it can't - well, won't a prospective developer weigh up his costs versus predicted gains and make up his own mind?  That's how it should be - fair.


Mr Scam, despite the hash the ODT made editing my comment my intent should have been clear - I was talking about our industrial zones in general.  We need a balance of residential and commercial zones in the city. We need enough jobs for all the adults who can work in the city, and we need places for those jobs.

Those manufacturing jobs that create new wealth by creating new objects from raw materials are far more valuable to our economy than more service jobs like cafes. They just move existing wealth around, losing 15% to Wellington at every step.

If we want to grow Dunedin we need to grow its economy first to attract more people. If I had my way we'd bulldoze that 99% idle rugby stadium and turn it into an R&D park connected to the Uni - we really missed out on a big opportunity there.

Your plan to convert  more commercial land into housing will starve the city's growth because new businesses will move to places where they can find space - Invercargill or Christchurch.

Push ahead

I see what the Chamber is saying, and understand they must act on their members' concerns, but my understanding is that this apartment proposal is mitigating the issue of noise in the technology of its planned windows; and secondly that Kiwirail, which operates a 24-hour industry across the road, is not opposed to the residential plans for this building. So why does Farra feel differently to other businesses?
In saying that, I respect this business hugely as an important long-term business that has created many jobs for our city. If the Council allows this, can all future residents  sign a waiver that prevents them from complaining? Surely, new residents will be going in to this building with their eyes open. No amount of marketing can tell them there won't be any noise whatsoever.
This is different to the Port Chalmers situation, which businesses are frightened of, which was a matter of constant noise growing over time, and reaching residents in houses who had not expected that noise to grow. The  key here is expectations, and managing them. We need to try and use this building, because as a sad ruined presence on the waterfront, it holds Dunedin (and jobs) back. This building has never been, nor will it ever be, an eyesore; that is a boring old attitude once displayed by tasteless people 40 years back with no foresight. I agree with Lund, it is zero-hour. 
As a community, we have to find new uses for the old loan and merc.  Because it would be an utter tragedy, and we would all regret it, if we were to lose yet another early Mason example - a living treasure that helps maintain our city's point of difference visually, and aesthetically. The fact is, the waterfront industrial area also surely needs to appear more vibrant to attract future business, and hence jobs to Dunedin.
This proposal starts that process of change on the waterfront. At last, I had thought! Everything is intertwined - we can't afford to be islands of polarised objectors. The city council has to allow this, perhaps with conditions, and as a one-off exception to the plan, but make it work.

Need to be tidied up

Hype: Maybe not a picnic area etc, but the buildings within the area of the wharf do need to be tidied up, or demolished and rebuilt. There are plenty of 'For Lease' buildings around that area that could be used in the meantime. 


Harbour apartments

Mikestk is correct. At the end of the day the development of those apartments might employ a dozen people for 18 months. By contrast the businesses in the area employ several hundred people and have done for decades. They also open early, frequently work late and during weekends. There is noise and heavy traffic and workers rumbling to and fro. 

The fate of Arc cafe is instructive in that the wishes of newly arrived apartment dwellers seemed to outweigh the interests of the cafe/music venue even though Arc was established some years earlier. If memory serves Arc was ordered to soundproof their walls as apartment dwellers had complained about the noise. The costs were too great and a much loved venue closed down as a result. Once doesn't need much imagination to see that something similar could happen in what is essentially a noisy, busy area if the wishes of the developer/ tenants take precedence over  nearby business.

Hopefully the council has the nous to place the onus firmly on the developer to make any required changes and if he still wants to proceed then good luck to him.    


Steps forward, into the blizzard?

" The buildings on the wharf side could be knocked down and trees and picnic areas developed. "  Yes, great idea branestawm.  We should get rid of all the activities that take place in those buildings, manufacturing, storing, adding value.  Who needs productivity?  More trees and picnic areas will bring people to the wharf area, wrapped up like Grandmama's best china.  On all but the worst days many layers of clothing will protect them from the bitter thin wind that whistles through that area.  Several days a year it should be calm, warm and wonderful.  It's worth sacrificing industry for those few days, isn't it?  

What jobs?

MikeStk, please enlighten me - how many jobs are in the said empty building at present that will be lost by building apartments there?


I agree with the chamber

@ GW_Scam: The Chamber is only pointing out the obvious. The hotel was turned down for exactly the same reason. The council doesn't want people down there - it is not designed for pedestrians, or so they say.

But obviously this is different, because it is a pile of rubble thats called "architecture" and "heritage". In any progressive city it is called an "eyesore"

You want vibrancy? Check out what the Auckland Viaduct has. That is vibrancy.


Good on you Russell Lund

It's wonderful that someone is prepared to bring new life to one of our local historic buildings. Would the venerable CoC prefer the building to slowly rot away? And exactly which jobs are threatened by this restoration anyway? Cities around the world are revitalising their waterfronts to great effect. I respectfully suggest that it's time for the Chamber to reluctantly join the 21st century.

OK if adequately protected

"If we let people move into the small industrial area pretty soon they'll be making noise complaints" writes MikeStk.  

I'm 90% sure that there was something in the application news item about ruling out the right to complain about what goes on in the area in the way of current usage.  There is a risk that in future a council will overturn such protection for existing business. Consent would have to be framed in such a way that the rule is, you know what this area is primarily about when you moved in, this is also a Non-Whinging Zone for residential exceptions, and this rule would be binding forever.  The cost of soundproofing is a cost to the developer, which is the opposite of what happened to Arc Cafe when it was scuttled by a residential refit of a large neighbouring building without adequate soundproofing in consideration of commercial activities in that business area.

I'm in favour of people being able to live in unusual places, whether it is a "caretaker's flat" in a factory or a part of a commercial building that doesn't really work for the commercial business.  The rules must be that it is safe especially from fire risk, and residential use has down-the-list priorities.  Industry and business, whatever the space is zoned for, take priority.  They have certain needs so they can operate, it is up to those who wish to share the space to adapt and compromise.  With those caveats I support the use of the top floor of the proposed development.

Two steps forward, one step back

I don't really get some of the people in this city, they seem to want to oppose things that are beneficial to Dunedin.  

Here is someone wanting to put some apartments in the Loan and Mercantile building, yet the OCoC opposes because they want to protect jobs, the city is struggling to retain.  With all the opposition that comes with Dunedin, people are going to move out anyway, and then Dunedin will become a place that people will drive through to get somewhere else.

But like someone said, with insulation and double glazing, there wouldn't be too many problems, and its not like potential tenants wouldn't know that they are moving into an industrial area.

In my opinion though, the area around the Loan and Mercantile is tired and grubby and could be developed into something so much better. The buildings on the wharf side could be knocked down and trees and picnic areas developed. And the buildings along the street could be either refurbished and turned into cafes and shops, or demolished and new cafes etc built.  There are plenty of For Lease buildings a couple of blocks back for existing businesses to move in to. 

On the last note, how is it OK to have a restaurant close by and a hotel, both in an industrial area but not ok to have modern apartments in a great old building?   


Jobs and housing

Mr Scam: roughly every adult in Dunedin needs a job, otherwise they will go somewhere else. If you take all the places where there are jobs and convert them into housing there will be no people to live in them. We need a balance between jobs and industry and housing - we should not be sacrificing one for the other.

Dunedin's malaise is not  caused by there not being enough places to live, or by a lack of  cafes. It hasn't been fixed by building a rugby stadium  (if anything it's been made worse). Шеэы  that there are not enough skilled jobs.

Those industrial businesses are not "almost completely dead"б  they're one of the engines of our economy. We need more of them, not fewer. If you force them to move they may move away rather than go to Mosgiel. Certainly Invercargill and Christchurch are more welcoming.

Waterfront building

The Chamber of Commerce should "pull their head" in and support the Lund refurbishment of the waterside building. Or do they want this lovely old building to sit empty and eventually fall down, which is what happens with old unoccupied buildings? The chamber should be supporting development, residential or not,  not knocking it.  Noise is not a problem with new or redeveloped buildings with insulation and double glazing. Good on you Mr Lund. Keep up the good work. I hope the Council have some more sense than this chamber. 

A great idea

I seldom agree with the CoC but in this case I do. Like the multi-storey apartment building that was proposed for across the street, this is industrially zoned land, and if we squeeze out all the jobs from Dunedin no one will want to live here.

We have lots of land in Dunedin zoned residential. Sadly the rugby stadium took the last big chunk of free industrially zoned land in the central city out of play.

If we let people move into the small industrial area pretty soon they'll be making noise complaints because someone's running heavy machinery across the street and other business will be forced out losing us even more jobs.

Dunedin wasting it's waterfront

Imagine a waterfront which was alive with people weekdays and weekends.  Where people regularly boated, fished, walked, met, picnicked, etc.  That is what Dunedin's waterfront could be.

Instead, incredibly, we have a Dunedin waterfront full of industrial businesses, which is otherwise almost completely dead.

So, along comes a developer who wants to start to inject life into it with apartments, and here is our very own Chamber of Commerce opposing it?

It has to be said, there are some very strange people in Dunedin - and it looks like some of them are part of the Chamber of Commerce. Time to close the 'Old Boys Club' I think, and open a Progressive Club.


Why don't we put a sign up just South of Oamaru which reads "Dunedin closed. Please be quiet when passing through "

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