Queenstown's $50m centre a step closer

By Christina McDonald

Queenstown. Photo / Doug Sherring
Queenstown. Photo / Doug Sherring

A $50 million convention centre for Queenstown is a step closer after councillors gave unanimous support for the proposal to go to public consultation.

Queenstown Lakes District Council confirmed its favoured site is Lakeview, on a terrace above the central business district.

Lakeview was favoured because the site allowed for future expansion and could support an adjoining hotel, casino and retail development, according to a public discussion document.

Christchurch Airport chief executive and Queenstown businessman Jim Boult described the council's decision yesterday to consult the public over the proposed convention centre as an ``enormously positive sign''.

Mr Boult said the unanimous support of councillors "shows the council is continually progressing'' the centre, which would cater for up to 750 people.

Reports prepared for the council indicate the centre would generate between $22 million and $36 million in gross domestic product for the Queenstown Lakes district annually and drive demand for another 466 fulltime jobs.

During yesterday's extraordinary council meeting, Wakatipu ward councillor John Mann expressed concerns about the proposed size of the centre.

Speaking afterwards he said he was worried the resort's central population might not be able to support what was proposed.

"I think overall it will be positive, but ... will it be sustainable?''

He also said he would like it "smack bang in the middle of the CBD'' as opposed to the council's preferred option of Lakeview.

He said he did not think anyone was completely happy with what has been proposed and said he was not alone with his concerns about the scale of the centre.

There were three funding options outlined in the report:

1: Council fund the $39 million shortfall - assuming central government contributes $10 million - and delivers the centre which would result in an annual debt servicing commitment of $2.6 million per annum over a 25-year term.

2: Have the private sector fund the centre and lease to the council, resulting in an annual lease payment of $3.2 million for the 25-year term.

3: Council to enter into an agreement with a private consortium to deliver the centre, together with mixed use development which could include a casino, high end hotel, retail and entertainment, public spaces and residential development.

The council favours the third option and has previously announced a consortium, led by Ngai Tahu Property Limited and Morrison & Co, and to have SkyCity Entertainment is the preferred operator.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce said the Government's preferred option would be to put in "the least amount of capital as we can so as to minimise risks for taxpayers''.

"No decisions have been made by the Government at this early stage. As we said earlier this year, the Government is not ruling out putting some money into a Queenstown convention centre project.''

The council will undertake district-wide consultation from next week, including delivering a summary of the proposal to every household in the district and conducting a phone survey next month.

- Otago Daily Times

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