Back to the neighbourhood

By Jarrod Booker

A new town with a $2b price tag is born today.

The man behind the innovative Five Mile township - to house up to 10,000 people near Queenstown - believes it could be the start of a new era of "neighbourhood-style" development in New Zealand.

However Christchurch developer Dave Henderson has more than just this project on his plate. The Inland Revenue Department has him in their sights, auditing the last five years of his finances.

It is the latest chapter in a very public battle between Mr Henderson and the IRD over allegations of unpaid taxes. After a four-year struggle he got a refund of $65,000.

The town is to have a series of multi-level buildings with a mix of shops, apartments, office space and education providers over 33ha of land near Queenstown Airport.

"I see the future of development in New Zealand is going back to a traditional town centre. I mean that's how people used to live," Mr Henderson says.

"But we have screwed it up [in the past] when we put a shopping mall over here, we put a residential subdivision over here, we put the school over here, we put a retirement home over here, we put an office park over here.

"What we are saying is it is time to put them all together again. In fact you can live in Five Mile quite comfortably without a car because everything is in walking distance."

Space for 1200 cars will be available underground to avoid parking congestion on the narrow streets of the town.

Stage one of the development will make up some 10 per cent of the town, and will take about three years to complete. It will include construction of 20,000sq m of retail space, 500 apartments, a 300-room budget hotel and 300 suites of working accommodation, aimed at the many temporary workers in the Queenstown area. The whole town will take about 15 years to build.

Mr Henderson admits a $2b project is ambitious. But he thinks the demand is there as he predicts Queenstown will continue to grow rapidly as it is discovered by more people from overseas.

"I can foresee a time in the not-too-distant future when you will have night flights coming in from Sydney on a Friday night, where people can ... ski for the weekend and then go home."

Mr Henderson is adamant the town can introduce a "huge dose of affordability" into the southern lakes district housing market that has sky-rocketed in recent years.

"Our objective is to make sure firstly that there is a cross-section of people living there, because you don't just want affluent people. That's what provides colour and energy on the streets."

Mr Henderson says he was rung late last year by the IRD advising they were investigating his financial dealings, from his bankruptcy six years ago to the present.

"I have never done anything that could cause them any concern. I'm sure there will be a meal that I have claimed that I have lost a receipt for or something like that that they will find.

"I've got commitments and more serious things to get into and I'm just not going to indulge them in the silly way that our relationship has been in the past."

He is adamant it will not affect the township.

"What it has confirmed to me is that there will never be any IRD building in Five Mile."

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