Bold plan for Dunedin harbourside

Dunedin's harbourside vision. Image: Animation Research
Dunedin's harbourside vision. Image: Animation Research
Dunedin's harbourside vision. Image: Architecture Van Brandenburg/ODT
Dunedin's harbourside vision. Image: Architecture Van Brandenburg/ODT
A home for ecotourism office space and cafes. Image: Animation Research
A home for ecotourism office space and cafes. Image: Animation Research
Exhibition, office and apartment area. Image: Animation Research
Exhibition, office and apartment area. Image: Animation Research
Hotel and cultural centre. Image: Animation Research
Hotel and cultural centre. Image: Animation Research
Marine research centre and possible public aquarium. Image: Animation Research
Marine research centre and possible public aquarium. Image: Animation Research

The push to redevelop Dunedin's waterfront is taking a major step forward as key stakeholders - from Port Otago to Ngai Tahu - throw their support behind a new "masterplan" for the area.

The blueprint, prepared by Damien van Brandenburg, of Architecture Van Brandenburg, envisages the redevelopment of Steamer Basin into a stunning array of new signature buildings and public spaces over the next 30 years.

Mr van Brandenburg had spent months working on images and a large 3-D model of the concept, helped by Ian Taylor, of Animation Research Ltd, who prepared an animation to showcase the project's potential.

The results, shown to the Otago Daily Times for the first time yesterday, represented a "turning point" for the city, Mr Taylor believed.

"I think it's stunning. I think it's the future of the city," he said.

The regeneration plan would tap into a mix of public and private funds, possibly including the new Government's planned $1 billion regional development fund.

However, after the repeated rejection of five-star hotel developments in the city, Mr Taylor hoped it would also send a signal to the rest of the country.

"Everyone keeps thinking we say `no' to everything. Here's something that we would say `yes' to."

And, crucially, although consents were yet to be granted, funds allocated or the public consulted, the blueprint had the backing of key parties with a stake in the harbourside.

That included the Otago Regional Council, Port Otago, Dunedin City Council, University of Otago and Ngai Tahu, who all endorsed the concept yesterday.

Mr Taylor said turning the vision into reality needed to begin with construction of the landmark pedestrian and cycling bridge designed by Mr van Brandenburg.

The bridge, stretching from the Chinese Garden to the waterfront, would link the harbourside to the rest of the city.

The access it provided would unlock the rest of the waterfront project, he said.

The DCC would discuss the bridge next month, when it debated including it in its latest draft 10-year plan for public consultation early next year.

Talks had also already begun on the creation of a new agency to oversee waterfront development, to smooth the path for potential investors, Mr Taylor confirmed yesterday.

And Port Otago was also already studying how it could shift its remaining operations within Steamer Basin elsewhere, to remove impediments to the project, chief executive Kevin Winders confirmed.

That included shifting the Steamer Basin slipway, which was seen as "the perfect position for a grand hotel".

"We've given our commitment that we're not going to be a constraint. We're going to be an enabler," he said.

The plan was also sure to attract the attention of Ngai Tahu's Christchurch-based investment arm, Otakou runanga spokesman Tahu Potiki said yesterday.

"It's an ideal sort of long-term project for an iwi-type investment, no doubt about that.

"There will be interest as it develops from our end, for sure," he said.

Damien van Brandenburg with a model of his vision for the Otago Harbour Steamer Basin. Photo:...
Damien van Brandenburg with a model of his vision for the Otago Harbour Steamer Basin. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The university, which has previously been linked to a possible marine research and public aquarium development in Steamer Basin, also welcomed the "visionary" plan yesterday.

The concept fitted with the institution's long-term strategy for "marine research, teaching and community engagement", research and enterprise, the university's deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Richard Blaikie, said.

The project was not "high on our list of financial priorities", but "there may be fundraising opportunities which can be explored", he said.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead also enthused about the "mind-blowing and fantastic" plan yesterday.

"There's a fantastic opportunity there for the city as a whole."

The new enthusiasm was the latest twist in a debate over waterfront development in Dunedin stretching back years.

That included a previous harbourside regeneration plan, which was scaled back dramatically in 2012 following a long-running battle with nearby businesses, and stop-start talk of wider regeneration in the area since.

Mr van Brandenburg said yesterday his intervention aimed to connect the harbourside to the rest of the city for people to enjoy.

His company leased sheds on the south side of the basin, and he knew how enjoyable the area could be.

Damien van Brandenburg (left) and Ian Taylor at the site of the proposed wharf redevelopment....
Damien van Brandenburg (left) and Ian Taylor at the site of the proposed wharf redevelopment. Photo: Peter McIntosh
He began working on new designs in his spare time, sharing them with Mr Taylor and then the area's key stakeholders.

The design could allow a variety of uses, from new public spaces, cycleways, walkways and new buildings to a new ferry dock opening new links between the city and Otago Peninsula, he said.

It also shows a marine research centre, including a public aquarium, as well as office, retail, cafe, apartment and exhibition spaces, an art gallery and cultural centre, and a low-rise hotel on the southern tip of Steamer Basin.

A roading realignment could create more room for redevelopment, while the new design sought to reflect and enhance the city's relationship with its environment, he said.

A view of the harbourside vision from the Octagon. Image: Animation Research
A view of the harbourside vision from the Octagon. Image: Animation Research
The plans had been drawn up with sea level rise predictions in mind, solar panels were included in the bridge design and the marine research centre was shaped like the flukes of a southern right whale's tail, he said.

The redevelopment plan also focused only on the edges of Steamer Basin, to avoid conflict with surrounding industrial businesses, he said.

And, to critics who suggested the area was too cold and windy, he said good urban design could overcome those challenges.

New buildings would block some wind, while new trees filtered the rest "as much as possible", and a city like Helsinki showed what was possible.

"It freezes over and there's still people down there.

"There's plenty of other places where it's colder and it's been designed for the elements."



View all

It's beautiful, aspirational and forward thinking. For these reasons I had to conclude this city has a better than even chance of never doing it. I hope I am wrong.

Sadly you don't have any chance with that design in Dunedin. Put your money away now.

Don't agree. I haven't met anyone who doesn't love it and it has support and friends in all the right places.

Love the concept...I wonder if there is any chance to deepen the harbour to allow cruise ships to dock, instead of being stuck at Port Chalmers? I'm sure cruise visitors would prefer the above site much more than parked next door to logging ships.

Who knows, maybe a few big cruise ships parked up could reduce the effect of the wind blowing up the harbour?!

Just love this concept plan. However it glory is in its stand alone design so keep cruise ships out. It would be like parking Ritchie buses in front of the railway station. Google 'cruise ships in Venice'. They dominate and ruin that wonderful city.

Wow! Why would you take the natural beauty of our harbour, and put these "clam shells" (which is what they look like) in it? One of the reasons I live in Dunedin is that, for the most part, it does not look like this. Yes, build an aquarium. That's a great idea. ...but make it unobtrusive, like the one in Auckland at the waterfront.

Look at other harbourside or quayside developments globally (St Katherine's Dock in London, Exeter's Quay, the docks on The Isle of Dogs, etc.). Find a style that is in keeping with our history; something that reinforces what we have, not something that obliterates it.

Um, have you LOOKED at London lately? There are some extraordinarily weird new buildings there, but they work because the scale fits with the existing cityscape. We live in an age with amazing technological and material possibilities: why would we not embrace those possibilities and introduce something exciting like our Gothic revivalist settlers did?

Natural beauty, seriously? Have you ever been in THAT part of the harbour shown in the renders? There's nothing natural only old rusty sheds and piles of industrial waste.
When I came to Dunedin/NZ 5 years ago it was first big disappointment to find out that city has large decayed industrial zone instead of nice looking waterfront. I'm glad the potential is understood and something is being done to fix it.

I would be embarrassed to live a life with so little ambition. It must be so depressing.
Watch this space!

To the contrary. Many folks in this city love the landscape, love the city, love the lifestyle, and love the people. Their ambition is to maintain and reinforce the best of what we have. It is so exciting! Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty. That is all ye know of Earth, and all ye need to know. I would be embarrassed to live a life blind to this, and to feel the need to change the world to match my blinkered view. It must be so depressing. Watch this space!

I would be embarrassed (and I'm not at all depressed) if this ghastly monstrosity was to become a reality. Sure, Dunedin really needs to escape the clutches of its conservative council, with its mostly bunch of boring old farts, and get into the 21st century, but this is not the way to do it. As soon as I saw it, I thought, Sydney Opera House (also ghastly). How embarrassing. How pathetic. Dunedin a Sydney wannabe perhaps? I pray that this never eventuates. And I'm surprised, Ian Taylor, that you're for this. Have you lost your mind?

All those dreary old buildings and sheds in that area would need to be bull dozed first and there is about as many chances of that happening as that of the Mayor not coming back from his overseas fact finding global warming jaunt. It will never be built, mind you though a good earthquake would solve all demolition problems for those old dreary buildings,it did for Christchurch!

You were there? What a nihilist. Christchurch, take no notice.

Really, cool, love the general idea, just hope the final design will look less like a cartoon of Sydney.

I sincerely hope I am dead before I have to witness this down on the harbour side.

As opposed to the current Garden of Eden that is the harbour basin? I reckon you could set fire to the entire area and it would be an improvement!

Great overall concept.
The clam shells may be a bit controversial, but so was the Sydney opera house when it was built. A signature piece of architecture such as this would be an attraction in its own right. I just hope the building costs don't negatively impact on the viability of a hotel.

Congratulations to the thinkers who came up with the concepts. I am sure many businesses would want to be part of such a fantastic complex.

Finally, a breath of fresh air. What a wonderful design. #Dunedingoforit!

I think these designs are stunning - but they don't fit with the rest of the city. I will probably be shot down in a million pieces, but there you are. It will look like an incongruous add-on to the city, even though in itself the design is very attractive. No-one has yet managed to come up with sympathetic designs for new buildings - but encouraging to see people are still trying.

I agree with the vision,and theory has to start somewhere.If the project could start as soon as possible,not years away,then support would blossom,regardless of those who delight in knocking any new concepts.But I guess those people have been 'burned',by the debacle of the two hotel plans turned down,and the length of time it took to accept by council that a toilet was necessary at Baldwin St,and the non real tangible support for the High St. cable car.
Cut through the red tape,bribe the Resource Consenters if you have to,don't allow this to become bogged down in pointless and non-helpful objections, and in the end conceptors will no doubt realize that Dunedin is a cold city.It's not Sydney,Auckland or Tauranga,it has a small somewhat 'holding'population numeric.
So if this futuristic design is to be launched,then the get-go must be determined,forceful and maybe then Dunedin will be the envy of the big brother cities in New Zealand.

Cool. This is different and the scale in keeping with our existing architecture. Finally we have a developer wanting to build something other than a grossly over-height glass-clad skyscraper. If I had a say, I'd ask for some of the proposed new buildings to be angular rather than all curvy, just to mix it up a bit, but I reckon its an exciting proposal and I look forward to seeing where it goes. Go Ian and crew!

Fantastic! Perfect timing! This architect is world class and he's ours. I feel so excited about this design and can't wait for it to begin. Now I've just got to live a bit longer to see it through.

Nice design, but why try to be a Sydney echo? Change the shape (slightly) and colour to be the blues/greens of mussells. That would be a stunning addition.

How much is it estimated to cost, and what proportion of this will be sought from public funds?

Ian Taylor specializes in making fantasies appear real. The trouble with this Harbourside fantasy is that it relies on taxpayer and ratepayer funding with no-one having a clue about the affordability and financial viability of such a project.

Ian Taylor doesn't like being criticised - he wrote here, about the non-supporters, that "I would be embarrassed to live a life with so little ambition". What he doesn't understand is that his ambitions are different to the ambitions of the Dunedin ratepayers that will be forced to pay for his creative urges. Many of us have ambitions that are financially constrained by the high level of DCC rates.

Probably Mr Taylor is not aware of the perilous state of the DCC's finances as seen by the austerity measures taken which created the Aurora renewals crisis and the city's severely substandard and worsening, drainage, sewerage and water systems. There has even been a cutback in new library books.

Ian Taylor wants Dunedin to look pretty on the outside, but on the inside, things are very ugly and getting uglier every year. Priority needs to go to preventing flooded houses and sewerage overflows, not creating another financial disaster.

The current Council Leaders (Cull et al) will kill this project off before the end of 2017.

This modern architecture can easily complement the heritage buildings Dunedin has, without replacing it. This project requires proper leadership and a visionary to move it forward. Something the current Leaders (the anti-progression brigade) have no chance of doing.

Dunedin is home, but it’s dated, too accepting of the status quo and too inward looking to think of the greater possibilities and opportunities. This project would be a true statement of intent - even if it did take 30 years to deliver.

While this is pretty and "inspirational" (well to some). Assuming the City Council will be involved in some if not all of the funding, what is going to be pushed out of the way, to do what is in essence a vanity project? Dunedin needs much of its infrastructure updated.

So yes, pretty, and it might inspire some other things. But should this be considered before fixing some major problems.

Also with climate change likely to cause a rise in sea levels .... one should perchance consider that?

View all