Make your case – Bennett

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Infrastructure powwow: Deputy PM Paula Bennett and Queenstown's mayor Jim Boult

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett has signalled central government will pour millions into special Queenstown projects if they stack up.

Bennett, who’s also tourism minister, was in the resort yesterday to hear again about the challenges of growth.

While she categorically ruled out a Queenstown bed tax for now, she says the money’s there on a case-by-case basis.

And that’s outside of the new national $100 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

“Certainly Queenstown’s able to put in applications for infrastructure within that $100m and that will be taken on its merits,” she says.

“But that’s for things like toilet facilities, car parking, footpaths, and I would probably, to be quite frank, see it more for the district than Queenstown central.”

Instead, she says, it’s “really open that there may be major projects that are outside of that, that if a business plan stacks up, this government is interested in looking at”.

Those projects could include a downtown bypass, downtown improvements and transport projects.

Bennett says Queenstown clearly has exceptional circumstances, with 39 visitors to every resident.

Funding will not necessarily have to be matched proportionally by ratepayers.

She highlights the new Kawarau Falls Bridge and State Highway 6 double-laning as recent government commitment to Queenstown.

Mayor Jim Boult, who argued Queenstown’s corner again to Bennett yesterday, says the government is listening.

Boult says: “I’m just delighted we have a minister who has listened to our case and said, look, I’m prepared to work with you to see what we can bring out of this.”

He says he’s even prepared to stop bending her ear about a bed tax: “I still see that as the permanent fix but given what the minister is doing I’ll shut up for a while.”

Queenstown’s council has already bid for money for some projects, such as the inner-links town centre bypass, through the $1 billion housing infrastructure fund – which has to be repaid through development contributions.

Public-private partnerships are also being explored.

paul.taylor@scene.co.nz