Housing plans put on ice

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Queenstown’s original Five Mile developer is behind stalled plans for a 1500-home Gibbston township with houses as cheap as $350,000.

Backed by ex-Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker, Dave Henderson had intended applying for a fast-tracked special housing area (SHA) to make a major dent in Queenstown’s affordable housing crisis.

But the pair pulled their bid when they realised the local council – which last month voted down three SHAs proposed for Ladies Mile – first wanted the resort’s traffic woes fixed.

A part-time Gibbston resident, Henderson’s well known in Queenstown for his original plans for a $2 billion, 10,000-resident township at Frankton’s Five Mile.

However, he didn’t get further than a 2.4 hectare excavation – known as ‘Hendo’s Hole’ – after his company was placed in receivership in 2008.

Last year, after coming out of bankruptcy, he bought an 80-hectare Gibbston plot between the Victoria Flats landfill and AJ Hackett’s Nevis bungy site – almost exactly halfway between downtown Queenstown and Cromwell.

Henderson says the site “lends itself beautifully for development” because it’s flat, hidden from the state highway and has no residential neighbours.

Using the American urban planners behind his original Five Mile vision, he planned out a township, ‘Avalon’, comprising 1500 dwellings including some apartments and row houses.

He says well-designed one-bedroom homes with a garage would have been priced as low as $350,000, and three-bedroom homes as low as $500,000.

“By using scale, we were very confident that we could bring prices down well below the [government’s] KiwiBuild cost structure,” Parker adds.

“It could have been, and may still be able to be, a really beautiful, sustainable, affordable centre for the ordinary folk who power and propel the economy in the Queenstown Lakes district.”

Henderson: “It meant that the local electrician and the woman doing the housekeeping at [Arrowtown’s] Millbrook could actually own a home at long last.”

According to a developer’s report, Avalon’s environment would be “more conducive to walking or biking than to driving”, and there’d be “numerous well-landscaped pocket parks and squares”.

There’d also be a full-scale town centre and numerous recreational amenities.

Henderson says they planned bussing residents out of Avalon to avoid clogging up the highway.

“The madness of all this is the people who would have bought here will now end up probably buying in Cromwell, if there’s an opportunity, so they’ll still be putting pressure on the same roading system, but there’s an extra half hour from Avalon to Cromwell, through the Kawarau Gorge, which is an hour’s extra travel [each day].”

That gorge, he adds, “is a horrible piece of road, especially in winter”.

Parker feels that having to shelve their SHA bid is a lost opportunity.

“Look, I don’t want to beat up on the council, they’ve got a lot on their plate, it’s a challenging area because of the growth.

“But wouldn’t it be great to be actually helping solve a problem, rather than just [be] another profit-making enterprise?”

The SHA legislation expires soon, but Henderson’s still keen to put housing on his plot.

“Maybe there is still a creative way to get this great affordability initiative under way yet.

“God knows we urgently need it.”

scoop@scene.co.nz