A controversial proposal by Tekapo businessman Anthony Tosswill to build a new five star hotel in the Centre City has been rejected by a panel of independent commissioners, but the developer says he isn’t giving up, and hopes to put forward a revised plan soon.
The original proposal was for a 17-storey building, which was estimated to cost approximately $75 million. However, submissions opposed to the build claimed that the actual cost could be as high as $160 million. Russel Lund, a competing local hotelier who opposed the proposal, said, “If the best case scenario is adopted and Mr Tosswill is able to convince Chinese or other overseas investors to pay the current market value in Queenstown for a premium, new managed hotel rooms and apartments of $10,000 per m2 – for a hotel with an unproven demand in Dunedin, it is still not enough.”
There were some suggestions that Tosswill had planned to cut costs by using Chinese materials, and had even proposed bringing Chinese labourers over to work on the build. It was proposed that a Chinese construction company could bring workers over and house them in a retired cruise ship on the waterfront, however the labourers would have still been subject to New Zealand minimum wage laws and working conditions.
Aside from cost, the panel raised concerns over the "visual impact the development would have and shading effects on parts of the central city". They said the size and scale of the hotel would be “dominant” on the surrounding area, and out of character with the design of the rest of the city. At 62.5 metres tall, it massively exceeded the 9-metre height limit placed on the site under the existing District Plan.
An unscientific opinion poll of Otago Daily Times readers found 65 percent were in favour of the new hotel.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said in a statement, “With our ever-increasing visitor numbers, and our ability to attract large-scale cultural, sporting and business events, there is certainly a strong demand, and a gap in the market, for this type of accommodation.”
Tosswill said he was willing to work with the Council on a revised version of the hotel. He suggested that he could reduce the number of floors from 17 to 12, and excavate some of the earth underneath the building to lower it into the ground.