Battle for Ladies Mile

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Queenstown’s council has snapped up a prime Ladies Mile property, as locals paint a grim picture of over-development.

The council yesterday announced a surprise move to buy a high profile, 14.6 hectare site with a capital value of $6.41 million.

Mayor Jim Boult says the proposed purchase gives council “the opportunity to develop much-needed facilities for rapidly-growing communities along Ladies Mile”.

That may come as a relief to some residents, after the Lake Hayes Estate and Shotover Country Community Association revealed a damning manifesto outlining potential impacts of the Laurel Hills Special Housing Area.

In a draft submission to the council, released to Mountain Scene, the association says the suburbs are already struggling under the weight of traffic congestion, overcrowding at Shotover Primary School and a lack of community facilities.

But the development’s co-director says Laurel Hills is actually part of the solution, not the problem.

The association wants the council to decline the proposal, saying it’s not an appropriate location.

“This is locating more dwellings in a satellite suburb where there are no local services available.”

The proposal would see 156 homes built on 9.4 hectares of land along Ladies Mile.

The submission also highlights a lack of an overarching vision for Queenstown.

“We are not aware of the overall strategic direction for Queenstown; and there are important discussions that need to be had; for instance, what level of growth is appropriate, if growth is to continue, where is it best located?

“The SHA process destroys any ability to plan strategically.”

Laurel Hills co-director Tim Allan has a different view.

While he says he can’t comment on the draft submission specifically, he says business cases for transport funding are currently with the government, and the “trigger point” for that investment is new development in the area.

“Laurel Hills is actually part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

They’ve also proposed a bus lane to help ease traffic congestion.

As for pressure on Shotover Primary School, he believes that could also soon be alleviated. He understands the Ministry of Education is looking to build a new school on the other side of Ladies Mile, which would ease both Shotover’s burgeoning school roll and traffic in the suburb. That’d align with the hopes of Shotover principal Ben Witheford, who recently told zone was needed.

The ministry’s so far stayed mum on any plans for new schools in the area.

Allan believes Lauren Hills is getting “an undue amount of attention” because it’s adding a large number of houses in one hit, as opposed to the “death by 1000 cuts” approach of ad hoc development.

The community association’s submission is the latest push-back amidst growing disquiet over new housing developments in the resort.

But one patch of land that’s unlikely to be turned into another development is 516 Ladies Mile. It’s owned by the family of the late Bill Walker, a prominent businessman and engineer who died in a gliding accident in Namibia, Africa, in 2014.

Announcing it’s in negotiations to purchase the site, the council said in a press release yesterday it had both “strategic and tactical value with an array of uses from recreation and community facilities, to education and transport in an area of significant community growth”.

Mayor Jim Boult said staff consulted with councillors and the proposed purchase had been well supported.

“The location provides us with the opportunity to develop much-needed facilities for rapidly growing communities along Ladies Mile, and sites like this do not come up very often.”

Due diligence on the purchase is underway and councillors will fully consider the purchase at an upcoming council meeting.

The council appears to have been loosening the purse strings as of late, confirming this month it has bought Queenstown Bay’s Butson/Lapsley wharf for an undisclosed sum – rumoured to be $3.8 million or $5m. It’s earmarked as a public ferry jetty.

Boult said final funding for the Ladies Mile site would be determined once the council knew exactly how the site would be used.

“We’re in the final stages of due diligence, and whilst I can’t predict the outcome of my fellow elected members’ decision-making, I am confident that they will be equally as supportive as I am and will endorse this community-minded purchase.”

However, Boult declined to comment on the issues raised in the Laurel Hills submission, saying it’s “vital that councillors keep an open mind on matters such as this until the council meeting”.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz