The push to redevelop Dunedin's waterfront is taking a major step forward as key stakeholders - from Port Otago to Ngai Tahu - throw their support behind a new "masterplan" for the area.
The blueprint, prepared by Damien van Brandenburg, of Architecture Van Brandenburg, envisages the redevelopment of Steamer Basin into a stunning array of new signature buildings and public spaces over the next 30 years.
Van Brandenburg had spent months working on images and a large 3-D model of the concept, helped by Ian Taylor, of Animation Research, who prepared an animation to showcase the project's potential, reports the Otago Daily Times.
The results, shown to the Otago Daily Times for the first time yesterday, represented a "turning point" for the city, Mr Taylor believed.
"I think it's stunning. I think it's the future of the city," he said.
The regeneration plan would tap into a mix of public and private funds, possibly including the new Government's planned $1 billion regional development fund.
However, after the repeated rejection of five-star hotel developments in the city, Taylor hoped it would also send a signal to the rest of the country.
"Everyone keeps thinking we say 'no' to everything. Here's something that we would say 'yes' to."
And, crucially, although consents were yet to be granted, funds allocated or the public consulted, the blueprint had the backing of key parties with a stake in the harbourside.
That included the Otago Regional Council, Port Otago, Dunedin City Council, University of Otago and Ngai Tahu, who all endorsed the concept yesterday.
Taylor said turning the vision into reality needed to begin with construction of the landmark pedestrian and cycling bridge designed by Mr van Brandenburg.
The bridge, stretching from the Chinese Garden to the waterfront, would link the harbourside to the rest of the city.
The access it provided would unlock the rest of the waterfront project, he said.
The DCC would discuss the bridge next month, when it debated including it in its latest draft 10-year plan for public consultation early next year.
Talks had also already begun on the creation of a new agency to oversee waterfront development, to smooth the path for potential investors, Taylor confirmed yesterday.
And Port Otago was also already studying how it could shift its remaining operations within Steamer Basin elsewhere, to remove impediments to the project, chief executive Kevin Winders confirmed.
That included shifting the Steamer Basin slipway, which was seen as "the perfect position for a grand hotel".
"We've given our commitment that we're not going to be a constraint. We're going to be an enabler," he said.
The plan was also sure to attract the attention of Ngai Tahu's Christchurch-based investment arm, Otakou runanga spokesman Tahu Potiki said yesterday.
"It's an ideal sort of long-term project for an iwi-type investment, no doubt about that.
"There will be interest as it develops from our end, for sure," he said.
The university, which has previously been linked to a possible marine research and public aquarium development in Steamer Basin, also welcomed the "visionary" plan yesterday.
The concept fitted with the institution's long-term strategy for "marine research, teaching and community engagement", research and enterprise, the university's deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Richard Blaikie, said.
The project was not "high on our list of financial priorities", but "there may be fundraising opportunities which can be explored", he said.
ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead also enthused about the "mind-blowing and fantastic" plan yesterday.
"There's a fantastic opportunity there for the city as a whole."
The new enthusiasm was the latest twist in a debate over waterfront development in Dunedin stretching back years.
That included a previous harbourside regeneration plan, which was scaled back dramatically in 2012 following a long-running battle with nearby businesses, and stop-start talk of wider regeneration in the area since.
van Brandenburg said yesterday his intervention aimed to connect the harbourside to the rest of the city for people to enjoy.
His company leased sheds on the south side of the basin, and he knew how enjoyable the area could be.
He began working on new designs in his spare time, sharing them with Taylor and then the area's key stakeholders.
The design could allow a variety of uses, from new public spaces, cycleways, walkways and new buildings to a new ferry dock opening new links between the city and Otago Peninsula, he said.
It also shows a marine research centre, including a public aquarium, as well as office, retail, cafe, apartment and exhibition spaces, an art gallery and cultural centre, and a low-rise hotel on the southern tip of Steamer Basin.
A roading realignment could create more room for redevelopment, while the new design sought to reflect and enhance the city's relationship with its environment, he said.
The plans had been drawn up with sea level rise predictions in mind, solar panels were included in the bridge design and the marine research centre was shaped like the flukes of a southern right whale's tail, he said.
The redevelopment plan also focused only on the edges of Steamer Basin, to avoid conflict with surrounding industrial businesses, he said.
And, to critics who suggested the area was too cold and windy, he said good urban design could overcome those challenges.
New buildings would block some wind, while new trees filtered the rest "as much as possible", and a city like Helsinki showed what was possible.
"It freezes over and there's still people down there.
"There's plenty of other places where it's colder and it's been designed for the elements."