Ratepayers to have say on hotel

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:46 24/06/2014
proposed Hilton Hotel
Supplied/ HBO+EMBT
BY NIGHT: An artist’s impression of what the proposed Hilton Hotel and conference centre in Cable St would look like. It would be able to host up to 2500 people.

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A proposal for a public-private partnership to develop a Hilton Hotel and convention centre in Wellington will go out for public feedback.

In a closed-door committee meeting today, Wellington city councillors agreed to consult on whether it should get involved in the project.

The business case for the 165-bed hotel with conference capacity of 2500 was presented to councillors last week.

Under the proposal, Mark Dunajtschik will bear the more than $100 million cost of building and the council will lease back the conference facilities for 20 years.

The annual lease price is not publicly available, but the council expects the cost to ratepayers after profit to be about $2 million.

The business case found the conference facilities would bring about $30m a year to the city in economic benefits, and about 200 jobs.

It was planned to open in 2017, when it would become the second largest convention centre in New Zealand.

At today's meeting, councillors voted on several recommendations, including to ''agree in principle to support a new purpose built convention centre ... subject to community consultation and any final negotiations and due diligence required''.

Helene Ritchie was the sole councillor to vote against that recommendation, along with one noting that the convention centre was in line with the council's ''eight big ideas'',  while she and Sarah Free also voted against delegating authority to Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and chief executive Kevin Lavery to sign off the consultation material.

Ritchie said she was keeping an open mind about the project, but believed more robust work on the contractual agreements should have been done before the consultation.

The lease arrangement was unusual, as the conference centre would still be managed by the Hilton, and the whole business case should be made available to the public, she said.

''I want to see the detail of the contracts and the agreements."

Wade-Brown welcomed the positive vote saying it would enable the development of a ''modern, flexible, state if the art facility''.

The ability to fill an empty space in the CBD while also getting a five-star hotel, attracting delegates, creating jobs and the potential spin-offs for hospitality and events were a ''really good combination'', she said.

Jo Coughlan also welcomed the decision, labelling it a ''big step forward'' for the project.

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''We have a unique opportunity to deliver a world class hotel and convention centre for the city by 2017. This will be a great boost for the Wellington economy.

Consultation will begin next month.

- The Dominion Post

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