DCC could break even on Carisbrook deal

The Dunedin City Council is confident of selling Carisbrook. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The Dunedin City Council is confident of selling Carisbrook. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
The Dunedin City Council already has potential buyers interested in taking a closer look at Carisbrook, and the chances of breaking even on the council's $7 million deal remain "reasonable", council city property manager Robert Clark says.

However, the council needs to move quickly to ensure the property can be sold before the Otago Rugby Football Union quits the site on October 1, leaving the council to pay holding costs of $440,000 a year, Mr Clark has warned.

He was speaking at yesterday's 2011-12 pre-draft annual plan hearing in Dunedin, as councillors voted to proceed with the sale of the stadium and adjoining car park as industrial land.

The move would be subject to further public consultation as part of the annual plan process, and was only approved after prolonged debate at yesterday's hearing.

Mr Clark told councillors he would need approval "as soon as possible" to begin marketing the property, or there was a risk a buyer would not be confirmed by October 1.

He had already been approached by potential buyers who were "absolutely" interested.

He was confident the purchase price of $7 million - which covered the stadium, adjoining car park and residential properties - could be recovered, despite a decline in the market in recent years.

"I think [the chances are] reasonable."

This could be achieved by selling the stadium to a single big-box retailer, he said.

That was despite the report to yesterday's meeting recommending a restrictive covenant prohibiting a big-box retail development to protect existing South Dunedin retailers.

Mr Clark argued for greater flexibility from councillors, saying one big-box retailer would draw people to the area and increase foot traffic for surrounding smaller retailers.

Only a large retail development - such as a shopping mall - containing multiple smaller retailers would harm the area, he believed.

However, some councillors voiced objections to the tone of yesterday's discussion, with Cr Colin Weatherall saying the debate preempted further public consultation through the annual plan process on the stadium's future.

Cr John Bezett said he supported selling the stadium to recoup costs and provide industrial land close to the city centre, but acknowledged others had different views.

Council chief executive Jim Harland said the council had already indicated further consultation would be held to consider the stadium's future, and councillors would be required to keep an "open mind" during that consultation.

However, Cr Syd Brown warned a lack of political will to sell the stadium - the council's stated intention - would leave the council with a $7 million hole in its 2011-12 budget.

"That's a liability of the ratepayers that's not in our budget," he warned.

Cr Fliss Butcher said it was "a real shame" the council was left with no choice but to sell Carisbrook, but "I don't really see any option".

Cr Lee Vandervis was equally disappointed Carisbrook had been reduced to a real-estate opportunity, with the council forced to sell because of mounting debt levels.

"It's not just a piece of dirt, it's a place that's been dear to the heart . . . this is not a happy situation for Dunedin."

Cr Bill Acklin disagreed, saying debt was not the reason Carisbrook would be sold. It was simply not viable to keep the stadium as a venue for community sports.

Mayor Dave Cull supported the sale, saying industrial development could provide jobs for those living in the area.

"I have come to the conclusion this is the best use for the community of this piece of land."

Councillors voted to sell the stadium, but with the price, terms and conditions to be approved by the council before the sale was agreed.

The covenant on the land was reworded to prohibit a retail shopping centre, supermarket or multi-big-box development - which would allow a single big-box retail development.

The decisions would still be subject to public consultation as part of the annual plan process.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz


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