Contractor welcomes hotel

Dunedin building contractor Russell Lund says ''height is good'' and plans for a 28-storey waterfront hotel should be welcomed.

Mr Lund, the managing director of Lund South Ltd, gave a detailed case yesterday in favour of the $100 million hotel proposed by Betterways Advisory Ltd for 41 Wharf St .

His comments came as supporters launched something of a fight-back on the sixth day of the hotel's resource consent hearing, after days of arguments heavily against the proposed tower.

Others continued to oppose the project, including the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which warned against allowing the ''overbearing'' hotel.

The estimated $100 million cost of the hotel was also questioned by submitters who suggested it could cost double that amount.

Mr Lund told the committee Dunedin needed to seize the once-in-a-generation chance for foreign investment in a five-star hotel that would offer views and sun from all elevations.

That would give the city a competitive edge over other centres including Queenstown, where height rules meant the resort town's four and five-star hotels were built on - and even into - steep terrain with restricted views from many rooms.

Dunedin's proposed hotel site was rare in any city, and the advantages it offered ''cannot be overstated'', Mr Lund believed.

''This will be, in fact, the best five-star hotel in New Zealand.''

Mr Lund said he spoke for the trust that owned the Loan and Mercantile heritage building just north of the site, and had no financial interest in the hotel or any agreement with Betterways to help build it.

However, he insisted the hotel would make better use of the vacant site than an ''ugly'' industrial development, which would be at odds with surrounding tourist attractions, restaurants and public spaces.

He also disputed the view a 96m-high building on an industrial site with no height limit was ''fanciful'' and, therefore, could not be built as of right, saying it was ''utterly, fundamentally wrong''.

Examples included the proposed Holcim cement works in Weston, which would be 100m high when built, he said.

Other traffic and construction challenges could also be overcome, but aspects of the design could be improved, including the hotel's exterior finish, he said.

Customhouse Restaurant owner Barry Timmings also backed the hotel yesterday, saying it would improve the waterfront and the city's economy.

''I look forward 100 years and I think we have got to add more strings to our bow than we have got, and this is part of it.''

Other submitters continued the fight against the hotel, including Peter Laing, owner of the Leviathan Hotel, who reiterated concerns about the hotel's impact on its surroundings.

He also questioned whether it could be built for $100 million, citing figures in the Rawlinsons New Zealand Construction Handbook that showed it could cost up to $228 million.

That could see it abandoned half-built, like the Sheraton Hotel site in Rarotonga, he feared.

Committee chairman Cr Colin Weatherall it was not for the committee to justify the figures, but rather Betterways' solicitor, Phil Page, when summing up the applicant's case.

NZHPT Otago-Southland branch heritage adviser Jane O'Dea also warned the hotel could damage the appeal of the city's historic harbourside area, discouraging refurbishment of its other buildings.

The Resource Management Act provided for the protection of heritage buildings, areas and surroundings, making the impact of the hotel's size contrary to the Act, she argued.

KiwiRail acting southern regional manager Neil Campbell also urged the committee to decline consent or impose a ''no complaints covenant'', protecting KiwiRail's use of the main south line from complaints about noise, dust and vibration.

''Our issue, really, with this hotel is it's right smack bang in the middle on the shunt yard,'' he said.

Steps to protect KiwiRail were already proposed by Betterways, and Mr Page said the company was happy to add the covenants KiwiRail - as well as Port Otago - sought.

Other submitters yesterday included civil and transportation engineer Phillip Cole, who questioned details of the project and warned against following the Gold Coast's high-rise example.

''Dunedin's heritage soul should not be sold to the devil. Once lost, you will never get it back.''

Peter Attwooll also questioned why its Chinese backers would not yet be identified, suggesting the secrecy ''does raise suspicions''.

Albie Benson backed the hotel, saying it would fill a gap in high-end accommodation, improve the harbourside area and create jobs across the city.

''Is there any city in the world that would turn down this opportunity, particularly in the present economic situation?''

The Airways Corporation of New Zealand also wanted conditions imposed - possibly including an aeronautical study - to ensure the hotel was not a risk to helicopters using the Kitchener St and Dunedin Hospital helipads.

The Civil Aviation Authority could also direct Betterways to install additional lighting on the hotel if required, the committee heard.

The hearing continues today.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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