Stadium handover hitch

Kate Wilson.
Kate Wilson.
A sliver of windswept land that snakes alongside the Water of Leith has stymied the handover of Forsyth Barr Stadium, after a surprise decision by a Dunedin City Council committee yesterday.

The issue of who owns the land, and whether the public has access, resulted in an extraordinary meeting being booked for next month to resolve the situation, and left finance, strategy and development committee chairman Cr Syd Brown "frustrated" it was brought up at the last minute.

But Cr Kate Wilson, who raised the concerns, said she did not realise there was a problem until she began asking questions yesterday.

Early concerns the matter might not be dealt with until next year, with the council unable to offload stadium debt to its companies until then, appeared late yesterday to be resolved.

The stadium, and its net debt, were to have been transferred to council-owned company Dunedin Venues Ltd (DVL) on December 13, if yesterday's committee agreed.

The transfer would have meant the council's total debt of about $330 million would drop to about $230 million overnight, as the debt was moved off the council's books, and on to the council company's books.

For the transfer, independent registered valuer John Dunckley, of Darroch Valuations, valued the facility at $225 million.

DVL would lease the stadium to Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML), the company that would run it.

But when a map of the stadium showing the various lots to be transferred was shown to councillors at the meeting, Cr Wilson said the esplanade area running from Anzac Ave alongside the Leith should be owned by the city, with full public access all the way.

Instead, it appeared to be going into DVL hands.

After the meeting she said, while she understood the land was not being sold, the situation came down to "who owns, who manages and who has access" to the land.

That was not clear from her reading of the report, she said.

Cr Wilson moved the report should lie on the table, and that was supported by a majority of councillors.

Cr Brown said that would delay settlement of the transfer, meaning the council would have to service any debt until the next committee meeting next year.

Yesterday evening, he said the decision meant legal and council processes for the transfer could not be completed.

Since the meeting, he had ascertained he could organise a committee meeting for December 12, the day before the council meeting that would have ratified a decision to go ahead with the transfer.

That meant, if the committee was satisfied with information it received, the issue could be resolved on that day.

"The frustrating thing for me, as chair, is if this issue had been raised [beforehand], the appropriate staff could have been at the meeting."

Those staff could have advised the councillors on the issue.

Cr Wilson responded she did not know about the problem until she started asking questions.

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