‘Hard place for new in­vestors’

Re­jected: No five­star ho­tel for Dunedin

Otago Daily Times - - Front Page - CHRIS MOR­RIS

THE man be­hind Dunedin’s lat­est five­star ho­tel bid says the de­ci­sion to re­ject his de­vel­op­ment will send a bad sig­nal.

Tekapo busi­ness­man An­thony Toss­will said yes­ter­day the re­jec­tion would tell New Zealand and the world ‘‘that Dunedin is a very hard place for new in­vestors to do busi­ness’’.

‘‘It is with deep re­gret that the de­vel­op­ment has been re­jected . . . Dunedin needed this project to move for­ward,’’ he said.

His com­ments came af­ter a panel of in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ers yes­ter­day an­nounced Mr Toss­will’s bid for consent for his 17­storey ho­tel and apart­ment tower in Mo­ray Pl had been re­jected.

The panel cited ‘‘sig­nif­i­cant’’ con­cerns, in­clud­ing height and visual dom­i­nance, which would re­sult in it tow­er­ing over neigh­bour­ing her­itage build­ings and cast­ing a mid­win­ter shadow over the Oc­tagon.

Mr Toss­will, in a state­ment, said he ap­pre­ci­ated the sup­port his project had re­ceived, in­clud­ing from Dunedin City Coun­cil staff who worked with his team be­fore the consent ap­pli­ca­tion.

He ruled out ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion, but said he would con­sider a revised de­sign ‘‘only if we have sup­port’’.

The process had al­ready come at ‘‘great ex­pense’’ to him and he was dis­ap­pointed an ear­lier re­vi­sion — re­duc­ing the build­ing to 15 sto­ries, in­clud­ing just 12 above ground — did not sway the panel.

The com­mis­sion­ers had ac­cepted the de­sir­abil­ity of a ho­tel on the site, but not his de­sign, which he found ‘‘con­fus­ing to say the least’’.

‘‘It fails to grasp the com­mer­cial re­al­ity of ho­tel in­vest­ment in a rel­a­tively low­yield en­vi­ron­ment like Dunedin.

‘‘This is not Queen­stown or Auck­land.

‘‘If Dunedin thinks that a fives­tar ho­tel is a pri­or­ity for the city, then the city needs to re­think its plan­ning,’’ he said.

Mayor Dave Cull said he was also dis­ap­pointed, but in­sisted the city re­mained open for busi­ness.

Mr Cull was not avail­able for an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, but in a state­ment said he re­mained ‘‘sup­port­ive’’ of a five­star ho­tel de­vel­op­ment in the city.

‘‘I am dis­ap­pointed at the out­come . . . Both I and the coun­cil have been clear for some time that we would warmly wel­come an ap­pro­pri­ate five­star ho­tel in the city,’’ he said.

He ac­cepted the panel’s de­ci­sion, but ‘‘strong de­mand, and a gap in the mar­ket, for this type of ac­com­mo­da­tion’’ re­mained, he said.

The de­ci­sion also di­vided opin­ion on­line, 67% of re­spon­dents to an Otago Daily Times in­for­mal poll, which had at­tracted more than 1300 votes by last night, say­ing they were against the panel’s de­ci­sion.

Otago Cham­ber of Com­merce chief ex­ec­u­tive Dou­gal McGowan said the busi­ness com­mu­nity would also be ‘‘pretty dis­ap­pointed’’.

The project would have at­tracted a new type of vis­i­tor to Dunedin, and ‘‘that’s an op­por­tu­nity that could be lost’’, he said.

He also wor­ried the de­ci­sion ‘‘might de­ter’’ other po­ten­tial in­vestors.

‘‘I would say peo­ple will start think­ing twice about it,’’ he said.

How­ever, her­itage ad­vo­cate Peter En­twisle, who was among those to op­pose the project, said he was not sur­prised by the out­come.

‘‘It seemed to be very far away from what is re­quired by the dis­trict plan.’’

Yes­ter­day’s de­ci­sion came two years af­ter talks be­tween the par­ties be­gan, lead­ing to a consent ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing filed in April.

It was deemed non­com­ply­ing un­der dis­trict plan rules and at­tracted 271 sub­mit­ters, in­clud­ing 206 op­posed to the ho­tel.

The panel — chair­man An­drew Noone, Stephen Daysh, of Napier, and Gavin Lis­ter, of Auck­land — heard ar­gu­ments over seven days be­fore re­leas­ing their de­ci­sion yes­ter­day.

The build­ing would be the tallest in the cen­tral city, at 62.5m, and ‘‘out of scale’’ with its sur­round­ings, which in­cluded the Mu­nic­i­pal Cham­bers, town hall, St Paul’s Cathe­dral and the Oc­tagon, they said.

There was a place for ‘‘ex­cep­tional’’ mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture next to her­itage build­ings, but only if the de­sign was right.

‘‘De­spite ex­ten­sive ques­tions on this mat­ter, we did not re­ceive per­sua­sive ev­i­dence that the build­ing would have the qual­i­ties to ‘pull off’ the con­trast.

‘‘Hav­ing made th­ese de­ter­mi­na­tions . . . we are un­able to grant consent,’’ the panel said.

❛ If Dunedin thinks that a five­star ho­tel is a pri­or­ity for the city, then the city needs to re­think its plan­ning de­vel­oper An­thony Toss­will

PHOTO: GER­ARD O’BRIEN

Whys and where­fores . . . An­drew Noone, chair­man of the panel of in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion­ers con­sid­er­ing Dunedin’s lat­est five­star ho­tel bid, ex­plains the de­ci­sion to me­dia yes­ter­day.

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