High school site sold

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A major housing development on prime land in central Queenstown is all-but confirmed, with the sale of the old Wakatipu High School site.

It’s changed hands from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and indications suggest that’s to allow it to be pegged for a housing development.

That’s welcome news for district councillor John MacDonald, who says it’s about time.

“It’s exciting that something’s finally happening, it’s taken a long time,” he says.

“It’s great if it goes to housing, by Jesus we need it in and around town.”

LINZ Crown property deputy chief executive Jerome Sheppard confirms the sale of the four-hectare site’s being finalised.

“Settlement is expected to take place in the coming weeks and we’ll be able to provide more information once the process has been completed.”

The Gorge Road/Fryer Street site’s been empty since the move to a new campus at Remarkables Park at the start of the year.

It entered the disposal process on April 3.

That triggered a multi-tiered process, with the first step being to determine if the land was needed for any other public works.

MBIE’s put its hand up, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) con-firming the government super-ministry’s purchasing the land-mark site.

MHUD’S coy on the details, but says an announcement’s imminent.

“The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is continuing to look at a number of options to help it deliver on its housing agenda in the Queenstown Lakes area,” a spokesman says.

“The Ministry isn’t in a position to provide any further information at this stage, but hopes to make an announcement before the end of the year.”

The high school site’s included in the Gorge Rd Business Mixed Use Zone Special Housing Area, which was created in August 2017.

Cr MacDonald, who chaired the Mayoral Housing Affordability Taskforce, says finally getting some progress on the site’s future is “fantastic”.

He’s keen to see a mix of housing options, including apartment blocks up to four storeys high, and more one- or two-bedroom options.

“It’s a big site, I think it needs to be reasonably high-density, multi-storeyed.”

Ngai Tahu’s long been thought to have an interest in the site.

In a statement, Ngai Tahu Property boss David Kennedy says the LINZ notice is “part of a process being undertaken by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to make land available for housing purposes”.

“Ngai Tahu Property continues to work with the Crown as it considers how to increase housing availability in that area.”

Housing Minister Phil Twyford late last month hinted on Twitter there might be something in the works regarding a KiwiBuild development in Queenstown.

“Wanaka needs affordable housing. So does Queenstown and Cromwell. Stay tuned.”

A KiwiBuild spokesperson confirmed earlier this month KiwiBuild’s considering a number of proposals including developments in Queenstown and Cromwell but wouldn’t give details because the information is commercially sensitive.

Earlier in the year, a Cabinet paper showing where KiwiBuild houses would be built if they were distributed based on need revealed 2229 would go to Queenstown.

The government’s KiwiBuild programme promises 100,000 affordable homes to be built in New Zealand in the next 10 years.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz