Opinion: Waterfront hotel would provide injection of hope

Of course we all love the heritage buildings - they make Dunedin one of a kind among the larger cities of NZ. But by themselves, do they really offer us hope for the future?

Are the heritage buildings by themselves really memorable enough in light of today's competition for tourism dollars? Probably not.

If they were, the buzzwords around the country would be 'Dunedin, heritage buildings', but that's not the case.

In fact, being an Aucklander only six years ago, I can assure you 99% of Aucklanders think of Dunedin as 'university city, slower lifestyle'. That's it.

When I think now about what I am proud of in Dunedin, I immediately think of the world class stadium, the world class university and the amazing railway station - but that's about where it ends.

Of course, I know there many other delights (wildlife, lifestyle, etc) but they are simply not the things that will attract a lot of people to actually stay here.

Nor are they things we can use to really sell Dunedin to tourists. At least, not without another drawcard.

Think ahead two or three years. Imagine being able to tell people: "Yes, come stay here. See our famous buildings, railways, wildlife, stadium - and stay in a world class, unforgettable, beautiful five star hotel!"

It is not just a hotel, folks. It is an injection of hope that Dunedin really needs at the moment.

I believe being able to brag about the hotel will be a lot better than in two or three years time having to say: "Well, you could have come and stayed in a five star world class hotel you never would have forgotten - but um, yeah, well - we didn't let them build it because we are a bit backwards, I'm afraid. But I hear Queenstown is nice."

You need to consider the facts rather than the emotional drivel which seems to make up the most common arguments against this hotel:

1) It doesn't block anyone's view of the waterfront, except for a handful of office workers. It might impede a small part of the view for a few residents on the Hills. That's hardly reason to stop a $100 million dollar investment.

2) Will a modern building really "deface" the city? That is what people said about the bright orange hardware store. Well, we all survived that one. In fact, the hotel will be a real landmark, something people will really remember Dunedin by, along with it's other treasures. It will provide a true contrast to the heritage buildings around it - the perfect mix if you actually give it some thought.

3) The amount of extra money it will bring from the higher income tourists who will stop in Dunedin specifically because of the world class accommodation will more than pay for any possible costs to ratepayers for path/road/bridge changes. In fact, I would hazard a guess it will bring millions of dollars to local food, entertainment, and retail businesses each year.

4) Owners of heritage buildings are now struggling to find tenants, because many people, like it or not, simply do not want to be in old buildings. In some cases they will end up being demolished, and the owners of those that are left will be glad of the increased business the hotel will bring that allows them to rent out their space to service industries fighting to get those extra dollars now flooding into the city from hotel guests.

Many hotel opponents are saying "Come on people of Dunedin, lets stand up and fight against this!"

Well, I say the opposite. Come on, sensible people of Dunedin - those who want their children and grandchildren to be able to live and work in Dunedin - fight to ensure this hotel goes ahead.

It will be one way of giving us hope that Dunedin will be a growth city, that it will get more money spent here by tourists. It will provide more employment, it will attract more investors, and so on.

Come on, seriously - use your heads, and don't be guided by your hearts.

By the way, I have nothing to do with the hotel or any tourism related business. I just love Dunedin too much to let a bunch of doomsayers spoil this once in a lifetime opportunity.

I want to see an injection of hope, not a slap of rejection.

Fantastic actually

Yes, the stadium turned out to be an awesome multi-purpose venue that many people have enjoyed and benefited since its opening.

This hotel could be the same.

Diversity please

nighttimejohn: all Queenstown has is tourism, same with Wanaka - deciding that that's how we're going to grow Dunedin's economy is silly, there's lots of places around us who only do that already, why compete? Sure we should help develop local tourism - but it won't 'save' our economy on its own - and, as peak oil kicks in people won't be travelling as much, for that reason alone it's a stupid thing to base our future on.

If we want to prosper into the future we need economic diversity - we need the small engineering that's based around the wharves and the foreshore, and heavy industry too, like Hillside; we need the University and what it brings to our economy; we need the businesses that service the farming area around us; we need to support the port and the exports it enables and the jobs it creates, and yes we need to help grow our IT sector - we have lots of smart people and they keep leaving because there aren't jobs.

We shouldn't crowd the engineering people out by making the wharves all touristy - don't forget that for a lot of the year sitting by the harbour, in the teeth of a southerly, is going to be pretty unpleasant. I understand there's a lot of money to be made by some to 'develop' this area and chase away the existing businesses - but they will chase away a lot of jobs too.

So tourism is a small, percentage of our economy, it could get a little bigger, great! - but true strength comes in diversity, the world is continually changing and we will need to have lots of options to survive. [abridged]


As a professional couple living in London considering moving back to our home town of Dunedin, it really worries us to see the attitude people in the city display towards development. Our hope was to move back to Dunedin to continue to grow an existing business that could create jobs in the area.
Unfortunately, however, we are constantly being made to feel very nervous at the prospect of doing this due to an apparently anti-development attitude in the community.
Many residents seem to have this romantic notion that they can pick and choose who invests in their town, and then tell those investors what they are going to do with their money.
The reality is if you say no to private investment Dunedin is on the fast track to dropping off the map completely. Investors will go to another city in a heartbeat.  Read more

Always make new mistakes

Weren't these the same sort of arguments for the stadium construction? 

And look how well that's turned out. 

Positive mindset.

For the last few years people seem to complain about the government not creating jobs, yet in private opportunities like this they may also be the ones that oppose it. Many of the heritage buildings are falling apart, like the old Dragon Cafe, and the wharfsheds and old go-cart building look ghastly. There are many good examples of heritage around and why not bring the numbers in with a modern gem? A few modern buildings didn't harm, say, Melbourne and they preserved their best heritage and they are no way obscured.[abridged]

Other considerations

In Christchurch the larger of the new contemporary-style buildings are to be built to a more humanly relatable height than the towers of twenty or thirty years ago. There, consistently lower rise construction is being seen an improvement, and for more than earthquake-related reasons. This sort of scale is something we have already.

We should generally welcome development and investment, but one requirement should be that it doesn't compromise the fundamentals of the city design. We are lucky (and in part indebted to earlier planning) that we currently have a consistency in the height our tallest buildings, from the Edwardian Consultancy House through to the recent additions to Otago House, and that they don't dominate in the way the proposed hotel design would, making what we have already look like some kind of toy town, and intruding on the natural landscape.

It is not a fundamentally 'anti' position to expect of major developers that they show some sympathy for their environment.

Common sense at last

It's a shame of human nature but it's always the negative attitudes that get public airing more often than not and the media love to run with any sniff of it - at last a positive piece.

What's not to like about a $100 million development that once complete would bring more revenue into Dunedin. Surely more people staying nights in Dunedin at a 5-star facility would add value to most in Dunedin, although probably not the doom speakers that don't really have anything to contribute to the city except a negative attitude.

Good architecture and urban design

I'm not sure when fmr ca last visited the warehouse district south of Rattray St. A number of building owners have invested in earthquake strengthening (enhanced building performance) and adaptive reuse, using expert advice obtained locally to maximise their property investment and to 'qualify', then action, successful insurance cover.

Those owners have hosted site visits for others in the building and investment sectors (information sharing) - there is surprising momentum for bringing the existing building stock into continuing use for commercial tenants needing verifiably stable structures to house their businesses and staff for the longer term; and in some cases, for use as homes and leased accommodation. If you haven't noticed the building changes, you're not in touch with the market.

Many of us think that 41 Wharf St is one of the most strategic development sites at the Steamer Basin; it therefore invites best practice approaches in urban design and architecture. We would argue the proposed application fails to meet this burden - in particular, to honour the objectives of the interested public who workshopped (donations of time and goodwill) and submitted on Plan Change 7: Dunedin Harbourside.

Through consultation on the plan change the Dunedin public showed it wanted direct access to the water from the CBD, via reinstatement of the level crossing at Rattray/Fryatt St, and with the redeveloped wharf area treated as a public realm. Other aspects of the Plan Change process complicated and denied this possibility - and really, it's for the public to keep beating that drum, following the mediated outcome of the Environment Court appeal.

The site of the proposed hotel invites a contemporary design solution that is sympathetically scaled to allow good sunlighting into the Steamer Basin, for the times ahead when the 'edge' receives community planned and approved upgrade and redevelopment.

Dunedin v Queenstown

One big difference between the two centres is the lack of gorse growing in Queenstown. This is an issue the ORC is scared to take on in Dunedin as I have contacted them many times. It is disgusting driving into Dunedin from any direction, looking at the amount of out of control gorse growing.

Well said

Hear hear. I think think there is definitely scope for heritage and modern buildings to coexist. The only issue I have is that the new hotel design isn't particularly pretty and isn't very aesthetically appealing. I'm sure there are better designs out there. But the concept of a new hotel should be embraced, and welcomed to our fine city. Dunedin has a lot to offer tourists, and a hotel of this quality should provide a good 'anchor' to the industry.


I could easily disagree with everything you propose, GWScam, but I am not going to bother because people know better these days than to follow that kind of rhetorical reasoning based on nothing but empty promises and impending doom.
Your predictions are just based on hope and therefore come from the heart - something you ask people to avoid. If you want to think with your head, you should stop believing in the tooth fairy. Nothing comes for free, especially $100 million hotels.
We should be asking more important questions like where is the money coming from, and we should look at the credentials of these Chinese investors. The Chinese would scrutinise us in the same manner. [Abridged]




Heritage dreams not reality

Totally agree. The old warehouses and buildings on the one-way were not that flash when they were built, they have deteriorated over the years, and now, post-earthquake, some are a liability. We should aim to keep the significant public buildings maintained, and concentrate efforts on those.  But if people think we are all going to live in old warehouse apartments in the city, they are dreaming. 
The people who think Dunedin is all about heritage are unlikely to have built recently, or tried to get insurance for an old building. It is impractical to upgrade all the old buildings and completely uneconomic. I look forward to some new buildings in Dunedin and a five-star hotel would be a great start, especially given it is a private investment.

A great rebuttal

A great response - thank you for putting forward the positive perspective.
Another sad reality is those that have bought or want to buy into the heritage buildings and their fabulous potential are saddled by red tape by the local and national government. This has led to a number of stunning buildings in Dunedin sitting empty, and therefore becoming derelict, because people have lacked the funding or permission to make them into anything worthwhile.
Today's modern architecture will be tomorrow's history (well, in 100 years time) and there are plenty of countries in the world showing this. Christchurch will soon be leaders in this as they fight to save heritage and progress to a city of the future.
Take the disdain at the design element out of the argument there is no really strong argument. Even if ratepayers' money is spent on building an over-bridge, the city has for years been asking for this to connect the city to our wharf industry and precinct development. The hotel simply highlights the need to do so.


Well said

I was in Queenstown recently and I was shocked by the contrast between there and Dunedin. We really can't be making it difficult for new investment  to come to the city if we are to avoid slipping even further behind other destinations.


Good to see a full summary from a positive perspective.