Hotel project spokesman confident of go-ahead

The man acting as the public face for a proposed 28-storey waterfront hotel in Dunedin says the project remains "full steam ahead" despite a public outcry.

However, Dunedin lawyer Steve Rodgers - the director of Betterways Advisory Ltd, the company fronting the development - would not rule out changes to the hotel's design, but hoped a fight through the Environment Court could be avoided.

Mr Rodgers said he remained convinced the hotel would be a "game-changer" for Dunedin and was "98.2%" confident it would win approval at next month's resource consent hearing.

That was despite a flood of 508 public submissions to the Dunedin City Council - easily a record for a notified consent application - including 457 opposed to the hotel project.

Most worried the hotel's size and waterfront location made it inappropriate for its surroundings, including nearby heritage warehouse buildings.

Mr Rodgers said yesterday he was not surprised by the volume or contents of the submissions, and said it was "a good thing" the city's residents had a chance to express their views.

However, nothing had changed despite the extent of the opposition, he said.

"There's nothing that's come up in the submissions that we hadn't anticipated ... we are still convinced it [the hotel] is in the best interests of this city.

"Resource management law isn't a matter of who gets the most votes. It's a matter of complying with the law - and we think we do."

Some submissions called for the project to be scrapped completely, while others wanted it to be redesigned - including reducing the hotel's height - or moved to another part of the city.

Mr Rodgers would not comment when asked if a smaller building could be considered, saying that would be a matter for the hearing.

Asked if the hotel could be built elsewhere in the city, Mr Rodgers would only say the waterfront site had been "specifically chosen" and there were no others in the city that were better.

Mr Rodgers said opposition from larger organisations, including KiwiRail, was to be expected, but noise issues would be addressed as part of the hotel's design and construction.

Claims by the Otago Regional Council, in its submission, the developers would need to seek ORC consents, on top of city council consents, would also be dealt with after the December hearing, Mr Rodgers said.

It was a "chicken and egg" situation, as there was little point seeking both at the same time, at extra cost, only for one council to say yes and the other to say no, he believed.

It was hoped ORC staff would be able to grant any necessary consents - including for water discharges during construction - without more public hearings and submissions.

Asked if the project was destined to end up in the Environment Court - if any city council decision to grant consent was appealed - Mr Rodgers said he hoped it could be avoided.

"From Dunedin's point of view, I certainly hope that the decision's in favour and we can get on and get it built. That's just spending money that could be better spent on Dunedin people, rather than lawyers ... dare I be quoted saying that.

"I think, if the council gives a decision in favour of us, that no-one will appeal. I'm an optimistic person."

• A council hearings committee chaired by Cr Colin Weatherall would consider Betterways' application for resource consent in public from December 3 to December 6, with reserve days available later in the month if needed.



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