Still negotiating over harbourside

The future of Dunedin's harbourside plan may yet be decided by an Environment Court judge, despite good progress during mediation talks between the Dunedin City Council and a group of upset business owners.

The council had hoped earlier this year to resolve the conflict with a group of 20 business owners opposed to the council's harbourside plan before the next scheduled Environment Court date in November.

It was confirmed last week all parties would be back in court on November 15 to present an update on mediation progress at a pre-hearing conference.

Contacted on Friday, Cr Colin Weatherall, who has been leading the mediation efforts on the council's behalf, conceded some issues remained despite "significant progress", and might not be resolved by then.

"I would say the reality is there may be some matters that could be still required to be resolved by the judge, but we are narrowing those down to a small group of outstanding matters at this point."

He could not reveal details of the outstanding issues or those already resolved, due to a confidentiality agreement between the parties, but said they would be "on the table" in court next month.

The update comes after the council early last year approved a district plan change allowing the development of apartments, bars and cafes in the area, following a nine-day public hearing in 2008.

Business opponents - led by the Otago Chamber of Commerce - objected and took the matter to the Environment Court.

Following talks, the two sides earlier this year announced an agreement on a shared vision for the project, with the council to dump much of stage two of the concept while businesses accepted stage one, subject to further negotiation.

On Friday, Cr Weatherall said the same revised concept was still on the table, with no major changes, and the same businesses were still negotiating.

Agreements had all but been reached with some of the parties, and he was confident - after another meeting last week - the talks were headed "generally in the right direction".

"We are still working towards it . . . It's a bit like fitting a jigsaw. We've got the outside covered, now we're just putting those last pieces in the middle that actually make the picture.

"It's still a bit blurry but it's getting more defined day by day."

Chamber chief executive John Christie agreed "significant progress" had been made, but said the parties remained committed to the shared vision agreed earlier this year.

"We have spent many, many, many hours really nutting out a lot of detail to try to resolve the issues we have had as a group of appellants, so there's been a lot of hard work put in.

"We're at that stage now where we just need to look at how we finalise some of those details so we can ensure the right outcome for the city."

He couldn't say whether November's pre-hearing conference would be the last step in the process, as some parties "may have their own issues that they don't believe can be resolved without going to the [Environment] Court".

"It appears there are relatively few issues that we've identified that we don't believe can be resolved."


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