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Land and buildings at the Dunedin harbourside could be compulsorily acquired by the Dunedin City Council under the Public Works Act to make way for development.
Affected business owners say the move could have dire consequences for their businesses.The DCC has included a notice of requirement to designate areas for public walkways, squares and road realignment with a district plan change it notified on Saturday.If that goes through, it gives the council the ability to force owners to sell their buildings if a sale cannot be agreed voluntarily.
In 2005, the city council announced a plan to redevelop the Steamer Basin, with apartments, bars and tree-lined boulevards, alongside industry in the area.The council worked on the plan with Chalmers Properties, the property division of Port Otago, which is owned by the Otago Regional Council.
Chalmers owns most of the land at the harbour side, which it leases to building owners, who have perpetual leases. Late last year, the Historic Places Trust announced plans to make the area a heritage precinct.
Last Saturday, a district plan change was notified that would alter the zoning of the area to allow both commercial and residential use.
Businesses and building owners in the area were sent letters at the weekend inviting them to make submissions to the council on the plan change.
Steven Thornton, managing director of Lindsay Walkinshaw Ltd, an importing and wholesale business at 14 Tewsley St, said his businesses brought containers to the site.
Part of the building his business occupies is set to make way for what is planned to be Tewsley Square. Losing part of the building would make it difficult to continue, he said.
‘‘It would make it unviable for us to be here.''
Mr Thornton said he would be speaking to his lawyer to see what could be done.
Ross Matheson, director of Montavilla Investments Ltd, which owns a building at 8 Bombay St that will be cut in two by a public walkway, said building owners would get a fair price if they sold their investments, but business owners would suffer.
The Bombay St site was occupied by Heatcraft New Zealand, which had spent money setting up there, and would lose if the council bought the building.
Dunedin property developer Tim Barnett has applied for Dunedin City Council resource consent to construct a three-storeyed building in Wharf St, containing 14 offices and a three-bedroom apartment on the top floor.
The notice of consent extends to that land, which would become a road under the plan.
Council chief executive Jim Harland was between meetings late yesterday, and did not have detail to hand on that aspect of the plan.
While the council did not often use the Public Works Act, it was ‘‘normal'' as part of achieving public works in which the local authority was involved, he said.
There had been dialogue with landowners, both at meetings and one-on-one with council planners.The budget for buying land was $9.5 million, already within the council's annual plan, and some of that was available in the next year.
Asked for a response to the concerns of businesses, Mr Harland said stage one of the project would be concentrated near Fryatt St, and had to be 70% completed before further stages started. Public areas like Tewsley Square were ‘‘long-term'' projects.
The council would work with businesses to help them relocate if they had to move.
Submissions on the plan change close on February 29.