by JEFF DILLON
The legal status of the Dunedin Catholic diocese Burns Lodge as an accommodation provider has been questioned recently by an undisclosed person.
A recent article published in the Otago Daily Times followed an anonymous complaint to the local Dunedin newspaper that Burns Lodge was an illegal operation.
The newspaper had checked and verified that the lodge did not have consent for commercial residential use.
Burns Lodge in Mosgiel operates using the former Holy Cross College seminary buildings.
When the seminary was shifted to Auckland in 1998 the Dunedin diocese needed to determine how best to use the buildings and site and pay for its ongoing upkeep.
Initially it was decided to offer it as the Holy Cross Centre for religious and lay groups to have for meetings, conferences and for other community groups to use. In more recent times moves were underway to provide a more solid basis to the range of activities that could be catered for.
It was in January 2016 that Burns Lodge began operations after a period of refurbishment of former seminary bedrooms.
Its website offers its facilities as a Bed and Breakfast Accommodation and Conference Venue. It identifies that it can accommodate 120 people with three main levels from budget conscious through to premium — which provides an ensuite with the room.
It also identifies that it has three conference rooms, two dining rooms, a multipurpose hall, two common rooms, a 250-seat lecture theatre and a chapel.
Burns Lodge is a not-for-profit organisation and regularly hosts school trips, sports teams, community groups and religious meetings. It is featured on a number of online accommodation booking sites including Tripadvisor with positive reviews from people who have stayed there.
Whether it was the increase in booking agencies advertising Burns Lodge or whether it was the result of the Lodge providing accommodation for some visitors for the Highlanders v Lions game which led to the anonymous complaint is unclear.
Lodge business manager Clinton Chambers considers that it was someone having a “whinge” and who was not aware of the realities of the Lodge’s position.
Mr Chambers is adamant and completely denies that there is anything illegal about the operations of Burns Lodge. Discussions had been had with the Dunedin City Council back in 2015 when it was decided to ramp up the accommodation operations at Holy Cross Centre.
Since Holy Cross had a history of providing accommodation as a seminary and as a centre for religious and also community organisation meetings then the Lodge has initially some benefit of existing use to cover its new increased role. However, it was acknowledge that it needed to increase its approval level.
Mr Chambers noted that the Dunedin Diocese has sought to have the church’s land at Holy Cross rezoned to allow for a larger commercial operation. This had been requested under the DCC’s second generation district plan (2GP).
A decision on that would not happen until the end of 2017. The DCC senior planner, Phil Marshall, was reported in the ODT article as indicating that it was best to allow that process to go through to its conclusion and that should resolve any issue.
The response that Mr Chambers has had from the community organisations that presently use the Lodge had been very supportive since the article was published. There has be no further complaint from the anonymous source.