Cadbury World: Dunedin's bittersweet $7 million promise

Chocolate giant Mondelez may not have been upfront with the public when it announced that Dunedin's Cadbury World would stay, Newshub can reveal.

The multimillion-dollar redevelopment was expected to double jobs and to attract tens of thousands of more visitors each year.

However emails obtained by Newshub show it was negotiating with the Ministry of Health to sell the land, including the area marked for Cadbury World's expansion, before it made the announcement. It knew if the sale went ahead there would be no room for the popular attraction.

On August 19 last year, the ministry emailed a Treasury principal advisor, saying Mondelez had put the conversion on hold as "they realise if the site was to be used for a hospital this location for a cafe may not be compatible."

On August 20, the ministry emailed an architect, also saying, "Mondelez have advised they have put the cafe conversion on hold pending outcome of our discussions so the whole site may be available."

Despite that, the very next day Mondelez announced it would expand Cadbury World into the Old Dairy building.

"The investment will create an entirely new tourism experience in the historic Castle Street Old Dairy, which is being refurbished to provide a new home for Cadbury World," a press release at the time stated.

"We hope to double the number of full-time equivalent roles from about 25 to 50. Visitor numbers are expected to go from 110,000 to over 180,000 per year, ensuring it remains one of Dunedin's most popular tourist attractions," it read.

In May this year, the site for the city's new hospital was revealed, which included the entire Cadbury site, spelling the end of Cadbury World.

"The way the company treated those workers is absolutely disgusting," E tū Union national industries director Neville Donaldson said.

"It's a kick in the guts - it really is because this is a group of workers who thought their employment was secure. They had an ongoing relationship with the company; they had ongoing employment; they're going to be part of this great Cadbury World."

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull believed despite selling the land, the company had good intentions.

"It was always quite possible that Cadbury World wouldn't survive," he said.

"Clearly Mondelez concluded that either it wasn't viable without the factory, or the fact that there was going to be a construction site next to it for eight years maybe that made it less viable as well."

In a statement Mondelez told Newshub it always intended to proceed with the redevelopment when it announced it, and even spent as much as $2 million before pulling the pin when the hospital location was revealed.

"The factory was set to close in March 2018, significantly impacting the tour element of the Cadbury World attraction, which meant we needed to continue work to ensure we had an interim operation up and running as soon as possible," a Mondelez spokesperson said.

"We discussed whether both the hospital and Cadbury World could work on the site alongside each other; however, it simply wasn't viable to run a tourism attraction alongside a state-of-the-art, modern hospital."

But Mr Donaldson believed his workers deserved better.

"There is no reason why they couldn't have been completely honest with us and those workers, and said one of the options for this site may well be the hospital, and if that's the case then plan B would not see Cadbury World continue.

"I've got absolutely no doubt that Mondelez handled this probably as badly as they possibly could have handled it."