David Williams: Selling? Really? What are we thinking?


OPINION: I joke with one of my colleagues that his views are slightly right of Hitler.

When the tone of office banter turns blue he’s the most likely to wax on about free-market ideals and lazy people who aren’t doing enough to lift themselves out of their financial hole.

Me, I’m more about peace and mung beans, so I usually just chip in some gentle ribbing (Ed: Gentle? Hitler?).

But where my colleague and I go to war is over Queenstown’s Lakeview site.

It’s such a prime spot he thinks it would be a shame for it to “go to waste” by using it for a social housing “ghetto”.

I totally disagree. In my view, because the land just above the resort’s CBD is council-owned it’s the perfect spot for worker accommodation.

That’s why I’m angry this week.

At today’s full council meeting our representatives will consider selling off 4.4ha, or just under half, the Lakeview site once earmarked for a convention centre.

Why? Because, the council tells us, the land is “underperforming”.

My slightly Hitler-ish colleague will scoff, but I wonder how this can be.

If your only expectation is for that land to make money, then fair enough.

But surely a council, which holds land on behalf of ratepayers, has a duty to consider more than just dollars and cents.

Councillors must have been peppered with stories about the unaffordability of living here, the difficulty of clogged roads, the need for worker housing.

So why are they overlooking a possible solution so close to town?

Online comments show others are miffed, too.

Former mayoral candidate Roger Tompkins says: “NO. NO. NO. SO WRONG. LEASE THE LAND.”

Jon Mitchell says: “This is simply ridiculous. Local authorities don’t hold property to primarily make a commercial return.”

I reckon Lakeview is the perfect place to build affordable digs.

Otherwise, the people who make this town run – teachers, cops, hospo workers – may as well pack up and leave now.

It’s not a “waste”.

If the council was sufficiently concerned about the people who live here it would forget developing fields, like along Ladies Mile, and consider turning Lakeview into something that can “perform” for workers.