Stadium loss may blow out by $2m

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is refusing to rule out adding another $2 million to the Dunedin City Council's bill for losses from the sale of Carisbrook.

That was the value of a council loan to the Otago Rugby Football Union more than a decade ago, and subsequently repaid when the council bought Carisbrook and surrounding properties from the union in 2009.

The Otago Daily Times reported yesterday the council was likely to be left about $100,000 out of pocket as a result of a conditional agreement with Calder Stewart to buy the old stadium, in a complex deal believed to be worth about $3.5 million.

The council had borrowed $7 million to buy the stadium and surrounding properties from the ORFU, but had since recouped $3.4 million, in part by selling eight Burns St homes and half a car park in the area.

In theory, if the Calder Stewart deal worth $3.5 million was confirmed, that would leave the council just $100,000 short of covering its $7 million debt.

However, when contacted yesterday, neither Mr Cull nor acting council chief executive Tony Avery would rule out adding another $2 million to the bill for losses.

The extra cost could be considered because the ORFU only repaid its loan from the council using the additional money borrowed by the council to buy Carisbrook from the union.

If the ORFU had instead sold Carisbrook to a private buyer, and used those proceeds to repay the council's loan, the council would have received its $2 million back without borrowing any more money, Mr Avery acknowledged.

The ODT was told yesterday that meant the true loss faced by the council from the deal could be seen as $2.1 million, not $100,000.

Mr Cull would not comment on the calculation yesterday, but would not rule out the numbers when pressed. Discussing specifics would reveal the details of the conditional deal to buy Carisbrook that was still confidential, he insisted.

Instead, he would only reiterate his belief the council would not cover its costs as a result of the sale of all properties associated with the deal.

''In the wash-up, we are unlikely to recoup the full prices paid, so we will make a loss,'' he said.

The $2 million loan to the ORFU was originally drawn down in 1997 to rebuild the Railway Stand at Carisbrook, and was covered by interest-only payments by the union.

In 2008, the council agreed to extend the term of the loan to June 30, 2009, the same year the deal to buy Carisbrook from the ORFU was confirmed.

By late 2008, the ORFU's then-chief executive, Richard Reid, was publicly stating the union's intention to use proceeds from the sale of Carisbrook to repay the council's loan.

In 2009, the council's then-chief executive, Jim Harland, also publicly stated the council's decision to buy Carisbrook, in part, aimed to help the ORFU clear debts and ensure it was in a ''viable financial position'' to use Forsyth Barr Stadium.

In the end, the purchase did not wipe all the debts of the ORFU, which also owed $4 million to the Bank of New Zealand, and the union narrowly avoided liquidation after being left with a $1.2 million debt and annual losses, even after selling Carisbrook.

Mr Avery said yesterday the facts behind the loan arrangements were ''quite plain'', but also refused to be drawn on whether the true loss faced by the council from buying and selling Carisbrook was $2.1 million.

However, it was ''quite possible'' the council could have had its $2 million loan repaid, without further borrowing to buy Carisbrook, if the ORFU had sold directly to a private buyer, he said.

''How people then view that $2 million [loan to ORFU] is where different parties will diverge.

''It's up to people to draw their own conclusions,'' he said.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter