Mayor promises stadium shake-up

David Davies.
David Davies.
Forsyth Barr Stadium and the company running it are in for a reorganisation, after the shock announcement chief executive David Davies plans to quit Dunedin.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday confirmed a review of the stadium and the company that ran it, Dunedin Venues Management Ltd, would be unveiled within weeks and completed later this year.

The review would look at the financial, operating and governance models of the stadium.

It was expected to spell changes for DVML and whoever replaced Mr Davies as chief executive, Mr Cull confirmed.

"It could change everything."

The scope of the review would depend on the findings of the PricewaterhouseCoopers audit of stadium costs, as well as DVML's six-month financial results, both of which were due to be made public on May 14.

However, Mr Cull also paid tribute to Mr Davies' performance, saying he had made a significant contribution in a "pretty challenging" role.

"He had to hit the ground running and get it right first pop ... He's made a significant contribution and under very challenging circumstances."

His comments came hours after an emotional Mr Davies explained the reason for his departure at a hastily arranged press conference held at the stadium yesterday morning.

His 16-year-old daughter planned to leave Dunedin in August to take up an educational opportunity in England, where Mr Davies' two older daughters - aged 23 and 21 - had remained to study.

Mr Davies' wife would accompany their daughter back to England, and Mr Davies planned to join them in March next year, once succession planning within DVML was complete and his replacement found.

It would be an emotional reunion for Mr Davies, who said he had not seen one of his older daughters for two years.

"The first thing I'm going to do is cuddle my daughters. I'm incredibly proud as a father," he said, fighting back tears.

He had no new job lined up but was prepared to return to England without one.

Mr Davies was born in Wales but came to Dunedin from England, where he had been based for much of his professional career.

Pressed on whether his Dunedin job, and the criticism that came with it, had proven more difficult than expected, Mr Davies said there had been "times when my sense of humour has been challenged".

However, he dismissed any suggestion the looming results of the PWC report into stadium costs - or any other hidden embarrassment - had prompted his departure.

He asked media to "hold that thought" until the reports were released, but added that: "I'm fairly clear that my conscience is clear on that one."

Attempts to question Mr Davies about his working relationship with the Dunedin City Council and Carisbrook Stadium Trust were initially blocked by a communications contractor working for DVML, who interjected to stop the question at yesterday's press conference.

However, Mr Davies agreed to answer anyway, and conceded co-ordination of the stadium project and some of the issues that arose had not been helped by the number of parties involved.

"As a result, we had huge challenges," he said.

However, the challenges, and ongoing criticism and negativity surrounding the project, had not been factors in his departure, he said.

Instead, Mr Davies said he felt sadness at being unable to help heal the "fissures" within Dunedin caused by the controversial stadium project, which he suspected would "take generations".

He also urged people to be "patient" while waiting for another headline musical act to follow Sir Elton John, saying the concert market remained "tough".

He had decided to depart in March next year because - in discussions with the DVML board, headed by Sir John Hansen - it seemed a "logical point" for a change, Mr Davies said.

That was when the Dunedin Town Hall - another venue operated under the DVML umbrella - was due to reopen after a $45.8 million refurbishment, which seemed to represent a "cycle coming to an end".

The process to replace him would be the responsibility of DVML this time, rather than the council, which spent $66,000 on an international recruitment drive that led to his appointment.

The David Davies era
• Appointed chief executive of Dunedin Venues Management Ltd in October 2009.
• Selected from 92 candidates after an international recruitment drive that cost Dunedin City Council about $66,000.
• Role includes running Forsyth Barr Stadium and other council venues under DVML umbrella, including Dunedin Town Hall once reopened.
• Plans to quit confirmed on Wednesday, citing family reasons.
• Will continue until March next year to prepare succession plan.

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