From the log books of a twenty-year distress #DCC

Dunedin City Council has overcommitted to a stadium. Because of this we lose some sweet, uniting, smaller projects for the city.

Plan for new 800-seat theatre at Dunedin rejected in report.

Report – CDC – 17/11/2009 (PDF, 67.2 KB)
Performing Arts in Dunedin – Options for the future

Report – CDC – 17/11/2009 (PDF, 774.6 KB)
Performing Arts in Dunedin – Options for the Future – Attachment: Report from Deloitte

### ODT Online Sat, 14 Nov 2009
Plan for theatre rejected
By David Loughrey
A plan for a new 800-seat theatre in Dunedin has been rejected in a report, which instead recommends the city’s theatres be overhauled at a cost of more than $14 million. The report leaves the future of the Athenaeum building, which the council bought in 2007 in part to provide for a new theatre, unclear.
Read more

Sadly, another one down – but not out.
There are ways the community can help sort the future location and business plan for Ocean Beach Railway.

Otago Railway and Locomotive Society faces long-term problems, as its 700m railway line at Kettle Park may have to go when the council comes up with a management plan for an area affected by encroachment by the sea.

### ODT Online Fri, 13 Nov 2009
Rail group calls for heritage fund
By David Loughrey
A call for a fund to support Dunedin’s industrial heritage has not found favour with Dunedin City Council staff, who recommend it be rejected, saying it is “not a current priority”.
Read more

A reader’s reaction – Just like I always said…..

Report – CDC – 17/11/2009 (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Draft Coastal Dune Reserve Management Plan

Noah’s Ark – demolition by neglect, by Dunedin City Council.

As the tv ad says: that’s handy.
We’re a sustainable city council after all. [large question mark]

Practically any building of this kind can be conserved, adapted and or redeveloped. Ask any craft builder. But what would Mick Reece know about that.
What do people want to see at Marlow Park? Have that discussion with the community before any demolition takes place.

### ODT Online Sat, 14 Nov 2009
No covenant for this Ark
By Chris Morris
God may have commanded the construction of Noah’s Ark, but it appears only divine intervention can save Dunedin’s version of the vessel. The 64-year-old building which houses Noah’s Ark Cafe at the Marlow Park playground, near St Kilda beach, looks set to be demolished at the Dunedin City Council’s instruction.
Read more

Report – CDC – 17/11/2009 (PDF, 2.1 MB)
Former Noah’s Ark facility – Marlow Park

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, DCC, Democracy, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Media, Name, New Zealand, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Sport, Stadiums, Tourism, Town planning, Transportation, University of Otago, Urban design

39 responses to “From the log books of a twenty-year distress #DCC

  1. Peter B

    I wasn’t aware the Council has made any decision on the theatre project. At any rate the report written by Deloitte indicates lack of study into public demand for a new facility and its potental adverse effects on the Regent and Mayfair. Indeed it advocates signficant redevelopment of those two theatres. Tying the findings to the cost of funding the stadium seems rather disingenuous.

    • Elizabeth

      Note futuristic title of post, ‘logging’ happens after the event not before. The post is in the troika land of total supposition, irony and the un-subtle ; )

  2. Peter B
    Funding a $200m plus stadium surely does not HELP the case for building a proposed new 800 seat theatre. I don’t know whether it is needed or not. I don’t know anything about this area, as such, but Peter Entwisle’s comment about adapting Sammy’s seems plausible – if the cost was not too high – and the cost didn’t detract from the funding of other existing theatres. At least we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. The stadium I would suggest stuffs that option up. I think we’ll be seeing more of this. ‘Great idea, but sorry……the stadium.’
    With the stadium there are now fewer balls to juggle in terms of what else can happen in this city as far as supporting worthy projects.

  3. Further to above.
    Did any one of you know that, according to the Our Stadium website, you can be sitting there at the stadium ‘losing yourself in the melodic waves of an exquisite orchestral performance’?(Information supplied by the CST.) It appears we can now save money by not only demolishing Noah’s Ark at Marlow Park, but also maybe consider the Regent and Mayfair Theatres. Don’t worry about a 800 seat theatre either. The stadium will give us all we need for sport and culture!

  4. Peter B

    Peter A, your views are just opinion. No one at this stage except STS and non-affiliated anti-stadium individuals have said “Gee we can’t fund other projects because of the stadium”. It seems in the build up to October 2010 the stadium will continue to be made the cause of all ills, a particularly dangerous, not to mention exceedingly negative, strategy.

  5. Peter B

    Ah but it’s a classic case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. If Council does vote for a new theatre or even $14m to upgrade existing theatres certain groups and individuals will jump up and down and make accusations of unrestrained, profligate local government expenditure. If Council decides not to proceed with any theature option then the same groups and individuals will probably jump up and down finger pointing ‘I told you so, it’s that evil stadium project’. There’s not a lot of rationality in either stance.

    • Elizabeth

      It’s the old problem, though, isn’t it – deciding to finance and build a capital item without a comprehensive business plan and believable projections to justify the effort.

      I don’t disagree with you Peter B.
      Frankly, I’m keen to see Regent and Mayfair redeveloped (I appreciate their need for code compliance for starters, and to boost user numbers given the current practical limitations of their buildings for performance) and have no idea how a new 800-seat theatre could be utilised at Dunedin – maybe the Touchstone Group needs to now focus on public education if they have any chance to stay in the game, to get their preferred option(s) across.

      *I have reservations about some of the people selected/offered up as the Touchstone Group. I’m not sure they have the sorts of knowledge and skills to bring the best advice to the community on considering the future of our theatres.

  6. Peter B
    If a project is rejected with the reason ‘we can’t afford it’ then isn’t it natural for folk to say ‘but you said we could afford a $200m plus ‘multi purpose’ stadium? The council has dug itself into a tricky corner. They have committed us to a stadium that will end up costing us God knows what in the end. They have a multitude of other demands by various community groups who want their pet project put near the top of the LTCCP. Something has to give. The next council will either have to slash and burn other areas to pay for the stadium, put the onus back on the stadium proponents to find more private funding or call a halt to the stadium and leave it unfinished – especially if/when costs blow out. The ‘asset’ could be sold off as is where is. A firesale I think it is called except this would be a pretty tarnished piece of the family silver.

  7. Peter B

    Peter A
    Would you kindly show me where in the case of a new theatre or upgrade of the existing theatres, anyone of importance has made the claim “we can’t afford it”? If no decision has been made, you are simply putting words in people’s mouths.

  8. The ‘anyone of importance’ doesn’t always have to use those words exactly. It’s the effect of the decision to not fund something else because there are other more pressing projects – like the stadium. Logically we can’t fund everything – though the council at times gives the appearance that they believe we can do so. Hence the debt levels in this city. I read it that a new 800 seat theatre is dead in the water. Do you think they will do so, Peter B?

  9. Peter B

    My instinct is Council will probably fund staged upgrades to the Regent and Mayfair but that’s based on pure assumption much like your interpretation that people don’t have to say what they mean.

    • Elizabeth

      Previous upgrades to Regent have required much fundraising in the community – see Regent Book Sale efforts etc. Building upgrades and regular cyclical maintenance have not always been programmed, particularly not for council owned heritage buildings… Local knowledge helps contextualise the extent of the problem. However, with Robert Clark on board as the manager of City Property I like to think there’s a happier future ahead; given some serious prioritisation will be necessary in view of council budgets and the increasing costs of construction and development work (utilising and adapting existing buildings for their embedded energy is what Dunedin has to specialise in, where it is affordable and efficient to do so). Mayfair has had very little capital work for a very long stretch, but it’s great to see the impetus to have that change, again requiring much community fundraising in support.

  10. Richard

    “The stadium I would suggest stuffs that option up. I think we’ll be seeing more of this. ‘Great idea, but sorry……the stadium.”

    Sorry, Peter but you won’t be hearing that (unless someone is beating ‘a self-serving political drum’).

    No matter what it is, priority is determined in the annual plan carve-up, what council has before it and how it sees things, both in the core, core discretionary and discretionary areas. The latter represents some 5% to 7% of any annual budget within which a council moves. That is pretty much the same throughout most councils in NZ.

    Prioritising in one form or another has long been the way things happen …. and long before the formal plans that came in with the 1989 reforms.

    Whether one agrees with it or not, the stadium WAS prioritised, the financial parameters and restraints were well documented to council and the public before the decision was taken.

    It was ‘a given’ that there would be little ‘headroom’ (to use Athol Stephens’ expression) for much more discretionary spending i.e. new projects, over the ensuing three years.

    What we do with our theatres has been on the ‘future agenda’ of council for some time. Council purchased The Athenaeum site to protect one option.

    No-one has ever said (or expected) that “everything would be done tomorrow”.

    And in regard to what goes before Community Development tomorrow, no-one has – as Peter B states: “made the claim “we can’t afford it””.

    Although they might well do! For ‘political drumbeating’!

    Fact is that the proposed upgrade of The Regent is already provided for (in part) within the Community Plan (the LTCCP) approved this year.

    As for the regular Regent fundraising, e.g. the Annual Booksale referred to by Elizabeth, that has always been for funding upgrades to internals within the theatre itself e.g. seating, which are the responsibility of the Trust and always have been.

    The work of the Trust is essentially what gives the building “life”.

    The fabric of the building is the responsibility of council, which is the owner of it. Dave McKenzie, as the former DCC Property Manager deserves a lot of credit for championing the extensive upgrade to The Regent Chambers section of it some four years ago.

    I will not widen that in regard to other heritage buildings that council owns. Suffice to say, in this city it is Council that has set the lead for others in not only maintaining, restoring and finding new uses for its own ‘heritage’ buildings, whether programmed or not.

    I won’t ‘bore you all’ with the list other than to underline that what will be done with the Town Hall and Dunedin Centre (and maybe – MAYBE – the former CPO) is simply a continuation of what was started in 1988 with The Municipal Chambers.


    • Elizabeth

      Richard, you’ve responded at length. Not sure this from me is in direct response or merited in any way – still, the wind today shook conscience and belief, for some reason.

      We’re not all as others see us. Dunedin City Council included.

      Council has mostly attended to some of its Cat 1 listed buildings.

      In heritage terms for Dunedin, they might be iconic, they might be lauded as redevelopment projects (only parts of these have been truly ‘conservational’ in type – Dunedin Railway Station is case in point) the council has championed, the Council might have shown leadership in tracking these works – they do not outweigh the private sector in ‘keeping up’ Dunedin’s heritage fabric in the built environment.

      Look at the struggle had, to have Council bring maintenance and repair work – and now building conservation work, at some considerable cost – to the Gasworks Museum, an internationally significant industrial heritage item.

      We could debate this whole area to our graves, oh… Council was persuaded after much discussion, mainly via Stewart Harvey and his Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust (NZ), to consider the city’s historic cemeteries as significant heritage sites worthy of conservation care and (more) attention… assisted by NZHPT registration of the Northern and Southern cemeteries, and the inputs and advice of Sydney experts Chris and Margaret Betteridge. The discussion, hard at times, is ongoing in partnership – for ‘the people’.

      Council has done some things reasonably well in terms of the community’s assets, but without the stadium spend we could have done more for the built environment and heritage, at a lesser cost, and with less borrowing possibly.

      I don’t remember that Council consulted* well on the stadium project. Got to watch head in the sand lack of objectivity there. This project is the result of mass bulldozing and careful manipulation of council processes for the desired result. I’m not really clear what the level of desire is. Dunedin people haven’t been subject to a referendum on the matter, so in my mind Council has little grounds for backslapping itself.

      My father would always point out the politician that “talked through a hole in his neck”… What comes of listening to parliamentary debates by radio while doing hard graft in the sheds and yards dealing to ‘sheep’ at, er, the dirt end.

      *[oops wrong, Council consulted but it didn’t have to agree with the submissions or submitters heard]

  11. Richard


    I did not claim that Council “consulted well” on the Stadium. Whether it did, or not, is a matter of opinion.

    One thing is for certain, what was done at both the time the acquisition of Carisbrook was proposed by the original Working Party – and subsequently -was extensive. That it was “confused” cannot entirely be laid at ‘the feet of of the DCC.

    For many of us, it was a action replay on a bigger scale of such projects as e.g. acquiring The Regent; acquiring the first CAT Scanner and, closer to home, shifting the Art Gallery.

    None of those things were ‘decided’ by referenda.

    I hesitate to bring the Gasworks into it. As a first step, you might like to ask yourself this question: why is the engine room and machine shop etc still there?

    Like the other three projects I have mentioned plus – it has to be said – the FB Stadium, all came from outside of City Hall.

    And, the idea of retaining what is now the Gasworks Museum did not come from inside City Hall either. To the contrary, the intention was to bulldose it and sell the land.

    Same for the cemeteries. Until Stewart and the Trust came along, Parks and Reserves (as they were) were planting them out with big trees so eventually nature would take its course.

    Which it nearly did in the Southern Cemetery where, interestingly for me, my great grandfather (a blacksmith who worked on building the rail line to Otago Central) and my great-grandmother are buried.

    Stewart did not take “no”, worked with staff, cajoled council (and councillors) and continues to do so. And what about all the roses in the Northern Cemetery – an amazing community project if ever there was one but below the “radar” of most people.

    You say, “Without the stadium spend we could have done more for the built environment and heritage, at a lesser cost, and with less borrowing possibly”.

    You may feel that way but in saying so you make the error of assuming that capital and operational expenditure are one and the same. They are not and, when in comes to local government, councils cannot borrow for operational spending.

    As for consultation, well Justice MMcMGeekan made the definitive ruling in the case of Air New Zealand Ltd vs Wellington International Airport Ltd. In essence he said: “Consultation does not mean agreement”.

    It is worth remembering that councillors are elected “to exercise their judgement”.

    Yes councillors are “politicians” because of what we are. But in local government that does not mean decisions are made for “political” reasons. We are part of the community after all. We live it in it. We have a interest in our city and our future and have decoided we would like to actively have a role in that. Which is why we stand for office.

    As for The Parliament. Well most of the time it IS boring. Most Parliaments are, simply because of the ‘legal machinery’ involved in passing Acts!
    It is the work that is done elsewhere which is almost certainly the most rewarding.

    As for the debates, there must have been some reason why your father had it on in the shed!

    Dare I suggest, to take his mind off other things and to be informed?

    • Elizabeth

      Richard says: “As for The Parliament. Well most of the time it IS boring. Most Parliaments are, simply because of the ‘legal machinery’ involved in passing Acts!
      It is the work that is done elsewhere which is almost certainly the most rewarding.

      As for the debates, there must have been some reason why your father had it on in the shed!

      Dare I suggest, to take his mind off other things and to be informed?”

      – – – –

      He had a mind for many things, bright, honest, a practical thinker and doer. Loved debate, loved stoush, argument, banter, you name it, one-upmanship between Labour and National, all the nuance and slander – loved politics as it ‘played’ out in the Chamber and around the country – yes to be informed, to be entertained, and not distracted. Another reason for sound in the shed was “sound” itself, the acoustics were brilliant in our shearing sheds and covered yards – for talkers’ debate, and whatever new music was coming through. He was way ahead of me on “sound”.

      You also have to think what era of politician this covered…

  12. Richard

    Me thinks not much has fundamentally changed! Just some of the rules and, of course, how Parliament itself is made up and the media coverage of it!

    Like SPORT!

  13. Richard
    ‘Consultation does not mean agreement’.
    ‘Councillors are elected ‘to exercise their judgement’.
    Both statements are correct – to a point. Depending on the issue before them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a satisfactory and happy outcome eventuates for the community as a whole. Your post here falls into the trap of ‘we know best.’ This is the problem that politicians face when they lose touch with their constituents. You might say that every group that comes before council with its wish list believes it is right and the council is wrong if the decision goes against them. Hence your two quoted statements. Surely as a seasoned politician your duty is to get a sense of what the community as a whole does, or does not, want and to reflect that at the council table. I realise this can sometimes be hard to judge, but sometimes it is obvious. Like the stadium. A majority on the the present council decided- in relation to the stadium – to follow the agenda of a special interest group (the rugby entertainment industry) and to engender ‘buy in’ by dressing it up as a community asset for all(?) to enjoy. In this case ‘consultation’ was a farce as the council merely went through the motions and ‘the exercise of their judgement’ was based on what outcome was wanted by the council and not on what the majority of the people wanted.

    • Elizabeth

      Channel 9 News: DCC appears to have agreed with the report that said no new theatre should be built in Dunedin. Instead, the Mayfair and the Regent should be upgraded. Story in Wednesday’s ODT.

  14. Richard

    “A majority on the the present council decided – in relation to the stadium – to follow the agenda of a special interest group (the rugby entertainment industry) and to engender ‘buy in’ by dressing it up as a community asset for all(?) to enjoy. In this case ‘consultation’ was a farce as the council merely went through the motions and ‘the exercise of their judgement’ was based on what outcome was wanted by the council and not on what the majority of the people wanted.”

    That is, of course, your opinion, Peter. And, if I may so, a very biased one!

    As a ‘seasoned politician’ I have never voted around the council table other than what I think is in the best interests of those I represent and the city we live in.

    My position on Carisbrook and the then proposed stadium was detailed to electors in Hills by a householder prior to the 2004 and 2007 elections and, more generally, citywide. I topped the poll on both occasions.

    You may disagree with what I supported and I respect that but please don’t patronise me or this city and its citizens with the kind of pap you espouse.

    It says more about you and how you view your adopted city than it does about anything else – or anyone.

  15. Richard
    I was amused by your comment that you ‘respect’ my right to disagree, but immediately accuse me of being patronising (how?) and describe what I have to say as ‘pap’.
    Could you remind me what you actually did say prior to the last elections re Carisbrook and the stadium? From memory, comments by present pro stadium councillors, including yourself, were basically along the line that ‘more information’ was needed before they made a final decision. That is despite the volume of information already in hand – councillors didn’t even bother to ask for the Appendices ie consultant reports. As it turned out the ‘earnest information seekers’ were largely the same ones on the council whom we knew were dead keen on the stadium from the start. The Feb/March 2007 DCC decision to proceed to the next stage – as long as conditions or ‘lines in the sand’ were met (that was a huge laugh) – was the real indicator of future intent. The decision of a majority on the council to go ahead with the stadium was set. All that needed to happen was the irritant of having to go through ‘consultation’. Unfortunately the plebs like us didn’t agree but…… never mind. As we know the conditions set were ignored.
    And to add insult to injury the council signed the contract part way through the ‘consultation’ process. How cynical is that!

    {Richard has commented here more than once on what he said in public about Carisbrook and the stadium. -editors}

  16. Richard

    I have no problem and respect differing opinions. I do not, however, have to accept “own facts” such as you state. They are YOUR opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

  17. Richard

    And, Peter I have no time for personal vendettas such that you are conducting on this site. Whatever your disagreements within STS; whatever your view on the Stadium. Move On!

    Maybe sit down and watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ this Christmas!

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Wed, 18 Nov 2009
      Curtain falls on theatre proposal
      By Joanne Carroll
      Hopes for a new, multimillion-dollar theatre for Dunedin appear to be lost, after a Dunedin City Council committee voted yesterday to agree with a report that found it was not needed. An alternative plan to redevelop the city’s theatres at a cost of at least $14 million will now go into the mix of spending options in next year’s annual plan.
      Read more

  18. Richard
    This site, I presume, is a mixture of opinions and facts. Usually one states an opinion based on facts. Even facts are disputed, as you know.
    As I said I have only RESPONDED to bagging comments on STS by Meg, Elizabeth and Ro. I am entitled to do so surely especially when they cast aspersions on the organisation. If it was a vendetta I would be more pro active.
    It is nice of you to support Meg etc. But you would, wouldn’t you given your own antipathy to STS.

    • Elizabeth

      Everyone following the news will be aware that Stop The Stadium (STS) no longer exists.

      As such there’s nothing to report here on STS of old. StopTS is dead. RIP.

      Sort the System (STS) has its own website to confer with the public, it will have more to say before long through its executive committee.

  19. meg55

    Good heavens Peter. I’d hate to see you in vendetta mode. Please tell us what that would entail?

  20. Richard

    Well Peter, why don’t you go and ‘ACT’ somewhere else, like your own site?

  21. How cryptic, Richard. Would you care to explain?

    • Elizabeth

      If we can’t develop an 800-seat theatre at Dunedin, there’s always something less permanent – “a spiky mobile pavilion”.

      ### Dezeen November 17th, 2009 3:20 pm
      Pavilion 21 MINI Opera Space by COOP HIMMELB(L)AU
      By Ruth Hynes
      Austrian architecture firm COOP HIMMELB(L)AU have unveiled their design for a temporary pavilion for the Munich Opera Festival 2010. Called Pavilion 21 Mini Opera Space, the mobile aluminium structure will seat 300. Made up of pyramids, the form is designed to increase its surface area and reflect external sounds.
      Read more + photos

  22. Phil

    I think that this is no longer an appropriate forum for this highjacked thread. For the most part this excellent website has managed to avoid the “he said, she said” pointless and resultless banter that has been the undoing of so many other forum sites. I, for one, would like to see that maintained. Time to agree to disagree and move on. Like the grown up kids that we are.

  23. Phil

    Elizabeth, I’ve wondered for some time about the wisdom of maintaining both the Mayfair and Playhouse theatres. Both facilities appear to barely keep their heads above water, despite the sterling efforts of their supporters. I believe that live theatre is a wonderful spectacle, and I would hate to lose the opportunity for a night out to a small intimate theatre. My concern is that, in trying to maintain their individuality, we might run the risk of losing both theatres. I wonder what the chances are of both facilities combining (maybe with the aid of the new events company) to become one really classy establishment, with secure resources to keep pumping out those wonderful performances.

    • Elizabeth

      Sorry for delay in reply, Phil. Your idea has merit.
      There’s also the Globe Theatre. And the Fortune Theatre (owned by DCC).
      Altogether, the small theatres vary in size, ownership and management. Don’t know if they share same or similar audiences.

      Globe, for example, is looking to do work on its property – and it’s been nominated for NZHPT registration as an historic place (not sure if the nomination has processed, will check tomorrow).
      Sad confession: I don’t know how Playhouse works (it’s in visual sightline of my apartment, and how often do I walk past?)
      Presumably some get by ‘just’, through enormous voluntary work, making grant applications, etc… ticket sales could be problematic if not a loyal and developed following.

      Hoping you and others visiting here can provide more discussion about this. A really interesting subject.

  24. Phil

    Sad confessions all around, I’ve never been to the Globe. Been PAST it enough times. The Fortune is a bit tricky to compare with, as the building is Council owned. Maybe the others are also?

    It’s sad to see these facilities struggling. I wonder how they would operate, if they COULD operate, as one entity. Instead of competing for patronage, where there is the risk of all 4 failing. I could see the opportunity for a continuous theatre performance season in one upgraded facility, with one show starting up as one closes off. Backstage and front of house resources would not need to be so stretched.

    I suspect that the biggest hurdle would be in persuading the theatre groups that combining would not be a case of losing face.

    • Elizabeth

      DCC’s Mike Reece appears to have been on a bulldozer mission with this one. Cr Fliss Butcher has produced a flippant lightweight response. The community is not restricted to mobile food sellers seeing an opportunity for themselves. AGAIN, what does the community want at Marlow Park. Was that too hard a question.

      ### ODT Online Thu, 19 Nov 2009
      Food sellers keen on Noah’s Ark site
      By David Loughrey
      Interest seems high in filling the market vacuum that will result from the demolition of the Noah’s Ark Cafe, at Dunedin’s Marlow Park playground. The Dunedin City Council’s community development committee this week voted to demolish the building housing the former cafe, which Cr Fliss Butcher described as “that ugly building”.
      Read more

  25. meg55

    I doubt the council would be keen to see any permanent building erected in that particular location, which is, of course directly behind the worst Middle Beach erosion. If the council is considering ‘all the options’, that includes managed retreat, aka letting nature take its course, which would result in flooding Marlow Park and half of South Dunedin. Don’t laugh.

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