Victor Billot reckons the ''Palm Lagoon Hotel'' can save
It has been cheering to read recent positive feedback about
the proposed grand waterfront hotel situated off Dunedin's
premier fishing wharf, henceforth to be known as the Palm
The trouble with our small city is the overwhelming
negativity we have towards ambitious projects proposed by
After reading yet another glowing report about the hotel in
today's Otago Daily Times, I quickly whipped out an old pie
packet from under my desk and scratched some equations of my
own with a blunt pencil.
My own calculations prove beyond reasonable doubt that
Dunedin could benefit by $200 million, or it might have been
$400 million, from this development. I used the same method
to calculate it as we did with the stadium profitability
projections. As long as you just keep adding any stray
numbers together, and stick to round figures in multiples of
10 million, you can come up with an impressive figure in no
time at all. I call it positive accounting.
In order to maximise the cash windfall, we will need to
investigate the location of the hotel to make the most of
local weather conditions.
If we place the hotel at the end of the rainbow, we will all
benefit from the pot of gold.
The only way forward is to learn from the go-ahead attitude
to economic development shown by other successful small
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang provides an excellent
template for what can be achieved when negative attitudes are
With a height of 330m, the visionary Ryugyong Hotel was
originally intended to have five revolving restaurants and
either 3000 or 7665 guest rooms.
Construction began in 1987 but was halted in 1992 due to the
end of the Cold War and general economic crisis.
However, after a brief interlude of 16 years, construction
resumed in 2008. It is expected the landmark hotel will open
as early as next year.
In the intervening 16 years, the half-finished skeleton added
innovative architectural features to the skyline of North
Eye-catching diagonal spikes and robust concrete features
towered above the dilapidated apartments of the impoverished
citizens, and encouraged them to ever greater heights of
economic progress and positive thinking.
There is of course a small risk that our new hotel in Dunedin
could turn into a local manifestation of the Chinese
phenomenon of ''ghost cities'', a result of bold
infrastructure investment where visionary concepts have
outpaced dull reality.
The BBC reported earlier this year about the ghost city of
''High-rise apartment blocks have mushroomed, but today it is
still largely deserted after failed attempts by the
authorities to attract new residents,'' the BBC said.
''The suburbs and even the city centre are empty,'' said a
''You can find a big stadium, shopping malls and hundreds of
buildings finished but abandoned.''
The World Bank reports that there are more than 100,000 new
apartments with no occupants in Chenggong.
Dunedin has a long way to catch up with this kind of global
best practice. So far we only have the empty suburbs and the
stadium. We need to finish some buildings, so they can be
abandoned, otherwise we will risk looking obsolete.
Perhaps we could establish a sister city relationship with
Chenggong. We could show them how to deal with empty
Ours cost too much, obviously, and following the Elton John
gig and a few football matches, the joint is deserted. But we
adjusted to our ghost stadium. We found rodeos. On top of
this master plan, the community to its pleasant surprise has
now invested $750,000 a year extra to subsidise community
events in the stadium.
This is an innovative financial technique known as
sub-subsidisation, where you subsidise a subsidy.
In the case of multistorey hotels built on reclaimed
harbourside mud, we could take it to the next level and have
There is no shortage of innovative thinking in our city and I
believe there are options here for public private
partnerships with the hotel entrepreneurs.
We could reserve the top floor penthouse suite for the new
offices of the combined city and regional councils.
We could find a local accounting or law firm to contribute a
modest amount of funds (perhaps 1% of the total bill) and
then name the hotel in their honour, including a flashing
neon sign on top of the revolving restaurant.
A matching tollbooth installed on the nearby railway bridge
would recoup roadwork costs.
Visiting acts at the stadium could be accommodated in the
hotel as part of the incentive programme funded by eager
We could name this the ''Cowboys and Clowns'' Dedicated Fund
in honour of the two remaining entertainments at the stadium
these days, rodeos and circuses.
In the case of rodeos, any associated beasts could be
corralled in the car park, and herded up the road for
Some effort would have to be made to separate the circus
staff from the council chambers, but with some forward
thinking and high-level discussions between councillors and
the ringmaster this could be achieved.
On the basement level, therapeutic hot mud pools could be
established that take advantage of the unique features of
rising sea levels and reclaimed foreshore.
Such activities could go some way to providing employment
opportunities that are required now our local manufacturing
firms, railway workshops and central post office have become
With the victory of positive thinking and the construction of
the Dunedin Palm Lagoon Luxury Resort, we face a bright
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
- Victor Billot is a Dunedin writer.