A controversial hotel on Dunedin's waterfront is a step closer to becoming reality. The Dunedin City Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with the developers.
The Chinese developers, Betterways Advisory Ltd, have appealed against the decision of a resource consent panel, which last year turned down the company's proposal for a 27-storey luxury hotel and apartment complex. The panel found that the proposal failed key legal tests.
Dunedin mayor Dave Cull has spent months trying to find a compromise to secure the South Island city's first five-star hotel.
The spokesperson for Betterways Advisory, Steve Rodgers, says the agreement announced on Monday is a major step forward that has got them and the council on the same team. "That doesn't mean to say that we necessarily will agree at the end, but it means we're working together rather than against each other."
The hotel was rejected largely because of its height and perceived traffic and connectivity problems with the site, which sits between Dunedin's Steamer Basin waterfront and the main railway trunk line.
Under the agreement, the council and developers will try to resolve traffic problems before passing the project to an urban design panel to redesign the building. If that succeeds, the council says it would support a district plan change to allow the hotel to be built.
Both sides say everything is on the table, including the hotel's height, shape and look, but it is intended for the same site.
Tourism industry group Dunedin Host says the city urgently needs a five-star hotel and a less polarising process.
But Dunedin design consultant Elizabeth Kerr says the developers are being arrogant and bloody-minded for pursuing it - and the council is making a big mistake.
Ms Kerr says there is no sign that developers are willing to compromise on the building's height and believes it is a "huge step back" for the city.
"I don't think we should be bargaining with the investors or the developers at all at this point, unless they're willing to go to another site and be lower-rise."
Ms Kerr says the city will never support a tower that high on the waterfront.