Oruku Landing: to proceed or not?
Published on 19 July 2021
I can’t remember the last time I abstained from a vote before Tuesday last week, when I abstained from voting on whether or not to proceed with the next steps of the Oruku Landing Project.
Why I abstained?
I abstained because I was torn, and I think my position was an accurate reflection of the community. There are pros and cons for this project: pros include having a total package including Conference and Events centre, hotel, apartments, footbridge and ferry terminal, not to mention a $60m incentive from Crown Infrastructure Partners (thanks taxpayers!).
Cons include potential rate increases, risk of ‘consultation fatigue’ after having just consulted on our Long Term Plan, and being currently in the midst of our Representation Review.
We don’t yet know what the final price will be. COVID-19 has had an impact on many industries, including construction supply chain issues. As a result, we are managing cost escalations in our own Civic Centre Project, and there is similar risk with this project.
Then there’s the location. Some people see it as the only logical place because it’s beside our beautiful upper harbour, but the site is constrained between the river and the road, which puts pressure on car parking and outdoor space. People also have concerns about the impacts of climate change.
Another consideration is that proceeding with this project pushes other projects out in their timeframes. The Hihiaua Cultural Centre project was deferred when we decided to proceed with the Hundertwasser Art Centre. This project potentially pushes out the development of a lyric theatre at Forum North.
Do we need a 4-star hotel? We successfully hosted the Rugby World Cup, the FIFA-U20 world cup, NZ Lions series, national hockey tournaments, international cricket games and, next year, we will be hosting another Rugby World Cup. All without a 4-star hotel. So, do we need one? Yes, I believe we do. When the Hundertwasser Art Centre opens in December this year, we will need more beds for our visitors. Can anyone out there build us a hotel in 6 months?
Our decision was about a future conference and events centre, not the hotel and apartments, which will be developed by the private sector. What happens if they don't proceed? Will we end up with a stranded asset?
What happens next?
Council’s decision last Tuesday was to progress to the next stage by procuring professional services (including a lead designer) to undertake investigations and design work to move to the preliminary/developed design stage. This will allow for a better understanding of potential costs. We will also be undertaking a special consultative process which will give you, our community, the chance to have your say on whether this project proceeds. We will be providing information on the project, its costs, any impact on rates and ongoing management options.
Elected members all received feedback from our friends and wider community expressing their opinions prior to the meeting last week. It would be fair to say feelings were 50/50 for and against the project. That’s why it was so hard for me to make a call that day. I am, however, happy to support the outcome, as that is democracy in action.