Government backs 'transformational' project

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones leads a tour of Steamer Basin yesterday,...
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones leads a tour of Steamer Basin yesterday, followed by Mayor Dave Cull, University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne, university chancellor Royden Somerville, waterfront concept designer Damien van Brandenburg, Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead, and (obscured) Dunedin City Council chief executive Sue Bidrose and Port Otago chief executive Kevin Winders. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Government backing for Dunedin's waterfront vision is being touted as part of a wider push to help fuel a resurgence of the city.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, on a visit to Dunedin yesterday, confirmed the Government would contribute $820,000 from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to pay for a feasibility study and business case for the waterfront project.

He also endorsed a memorandum of understanding signed by key stakeholders supporting the project, including the Dunedin City Council, the University of Otago, Port Otago and Ngai Tahu.

He urged Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and his council to move quickly, saying he wanted to see "action and pace".

Damien van Brandenburg, of Architecture Van Brandenburg, and businessman Ian Taylor, who floated the concept, are also signatories to the agreement, which committed all parties to work together to progress the project.

Mr Jones said the waterfront vision would be "iconic and transformational" for the city and unparalleled in scale in New Zealand.

He would not be drawn on the exact sums available to support the project, if it was backed by feasibility studies and the Cabinet, but said it was "significant".

"This, quite frankly, is going to make a major contribution to our sense of nationhood as a country."

But Mr Jones said he had wider hopes for the city, after also meeting yesterday those behind the proposed engineering hub put forward by Gareth Evans, of Farra Engineering, earlier this year.

Mr Jones said if he did "anything else", it would be to back the hub concept, to build on the city's engineering legacy.

He was also considering proposals for the rejuvenation of KiwiRail, and hoped that could include Hillside Workshops playing "a hell of a bigger role" than at present.

"If I have the chance ... that place will be humming."

Economic Development Minister David Parker, also at yesterday's unveiling, said the city's engineering heritage was under threat, but he could also feel confidence in the city lifting.

"We're absolutely determined to lift the fortunes of the province, to become less reliant as a country on Auckland and to revitalise and utilise the infrastructure, the skilled people and the ethic of Dunedin."

Another $60,000 from the PGF would help pay for the development of an Otago-wide economic development strategy, Mr Jones also announced yesterday.

Mr Cull welcomed the Government's "exciting and eagerly awaited" support for the waterfront concept, which was also "a clear indication of confidence in Dunedin's resurgence".

Consultant firm Beca, working with Colliers International, would carry out work on the feasibility study and business case, which would be completed by Christmas.

Mr van Brandenburg said it was "fantastic" to see the Government, city and the public swinging in behind the waterfront project.

"We love Dunedin and we want to do our best ... to make this a better place for people to live in."

The Otago Regional Council did not sign the agreement, because of its regulatory responsibilities for issuing consents in the coastal environment, but remained a staunch supporter of the concept, chairman Stephen Woodhead said.

"Personally, I think it's a fantastic opportunity," he said.

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