Received Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:23 a.m.
Wharf Street Hotel: time for some answers
By Grahame Sydney
With the DCC’s Resource Consent panel now sitting on its evidence, the full Council prevented from commenting on the proposal, and Dunedin ironically about to indulge in a celebration of its invaluable built heritage, isn’t it time a few things were clarified for the Dunedin public ? Time for a few truths to be told, instead of the shamefully dishonest propaganda from the promoters of the Wharf Street Hotel ?
Let’s start with the promotional video released on May 11, 2012 and voiced on behalf of his clients by Steve Rodgers of “Betterways Advisory”.
This sophisticated promo is a must-watch for all Dunedin residents, because within its 3 minute 49 second running time they will discover a Dunedin totally unlike the one they know: this is a fantasy Dunedin, whose tranquil waterfront bears no resemblance whatever to the facts. It is neat and orderly, blessed with open park spaces, and tied to its wharfs are luxury yachts and container ships. Rows of new, unrecognisable buildings have miraculously appeared behind every view of the towering glass monolith, and as the CGI camera sweeps across this fictional CBD towards the Stadium (curiously glimpsed only from overhead) and down its oddly-scaled roadways citizens will puzzle to identify any of the many buildings occupying the land in the vicinity of the Railway Station.
Perhaps the developers have bolder plans than a single hotel ? Certainly the Dunedin presented in this video sales pitch is not today’s city. It’s a scrubbed up, redesigned, blatantly re-scaled quasi-Auckland Viaduct vision in which the hideous proportions of the hotel appear more comfortable and the truth is deliberately ignored.
As you watch, hit the Pause button at 33 seconds, at 53, at 1.14, at 1.21, at 1.39, at 2.22….. what ARE those buildings ? Where did they come from ? Have I been asleep these last decades ? Am I in the right city here ? Would someone please be honest here ?
Having extolled the virtues of the city’s marvellous heritage buildings, and noting that they are one of the major reasons why “tourists love this city”, Mr Rodgers proceeds to extol the virtues of “my clients’ grand design”, which so brutally desecrates that heritage.
Who are these visionary clients, so hellbent on bestowing gifts ? We are slowly learning: the “Otago Businesswoman” behind the proposal is an ex-accountant locally, now consultant and wine promoter living in Queenstown. Ms Song has the good fortune to be married to Ping Cao, reportedly “one of China’s top construction company owners”. That marriage, incidentally, took place in another New Zealand city with which she reported fell instantly in love: Nelson. No “gifts” for Nelson, however. How fickle is love.
Being pushed forward now as the public face of the project, Ms Song’s repeated professions of love for Dunedin are no substitute for expertise, or indeed sensitivity. It is evident she and her entrepreneur husband belong to the camp which believes Dunedin’s Victorian and Edwardian built heritage has less appeal than the monstrously ugly Dunedin Stadium, and that they anticipate a brighter future for the city when more of the same charmless, cheap, dated design has overwhelmed the city’s essential historic character.
Far too many unanswered questions remain, and honest answers would be enlightening. Continue reading