Cull welcomes ORFU news

Dave Cull
Dave Cull
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has welcomed news ratepayers and other creditors together owed $2.35 million by the Otago Rugby Football Union could yet get some of their money back.

That followed yesterday's announcement the ORFU was delaying planned liquidation proceedings by one week, while continuing to work on a rescue package that ORFU president Wayne Graham said now gave the union a "slim" chance of survival.

Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times any rescue package would require agreement from all creditors, including the council, which was owed $399,000 in unpaid rent and other costs for the use of Carisbrook by the union.

Earlier this week, both Mr Cull and council chief executive Paul Orders said there were no city council plans to save the union from its debts.

Mr Cull said at the time he saw no point "in supporting a flawed business model".

However, Mr Cull said yesterday any proposal to retrieve the "pretty ghastly situation" faced by the union would need to be considered, especially if it meant debts might yet be repaid.

Asked if he preferred liquidation or a rescue package, Mr Cull said: "I would rather we got our money back.

"I think that's what the ratepayers would expect. It's a debt, and we would want our money back."

He was also "very conscious" there were small and not-so-small businesses in Dunedin also owed money, and liquidation would be a blow to them.

"If a package could be put together from which everyone benefited, that was better than straight liquidation and everyone losing everything, then obviously we'd have to consider it."

Mr Cull said he had not been involved in negotiations to date, with Mr Orders handling the council's involvement on an operational level.

However, the ORFU would be legally required to obtain creditors' consent for any rescue package that involved changes to debt obligations, he said.

Mr Orders declined to comment yesterday, while Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive David Davies could not be reached for comment.

The largest single creditor is the Bank of New Zealand, which was owed $1.2 million by the union, followed by the council and 180 smaller businesses.

BNZ spokeswoman Erica Lloyd, responding to ODT questions, said in a brief statement yesterday the bank "has been in an ongoing dialogue with NZRU and ORFU since being approached by the NZRU before Christmas".

"BNZ has worked constructively on a programme of support which is part of a wider solution to immediate financial problems facing ORFU," she said.

Otago Rugby Supporters Club chairman Fred Cross believed the decision to delay was good "from the point of view of the creditors", because it was important they be paid.

"We don't want to see Otago lose its identity. There is a lot of history there. There are a lot of proud people who have worn the jersey ... it would be good for it to survive, but at the end of the day, if it's not financially viable to do that, it just can't survive."

Club president Irene Todd hoped the union "can get somewhere with it".

The supporters club would meet on Tuesday and, while the club was "not financially able to help them", ways to assist would be discussed, she said.



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