$30m worker digs axed

Pulled: The proposed Gorge Rd apartment complex

A developer’s canning a central Queenstown worker housing complex just as problems accommodating hospo staff hit crisis point.

New Ground Capital boss Roy Thompson says his company’s pulled the pin on its 143-unit, $30 million-plus project because it can’t make the figures stack up.

“We simply could not make the site stack up from a financial feasibility perspective, particularly given the recent increase in bank funding costs,” Thompson says.

He’s “disappointed” Gorge Road Apartments won’t proceed after nine months’ detailed planning and design work but says his company still sees demand for such accommodation.

New Ground Capital recently received resource consent to build the six-storey complex on the former Carters building supplies site.

It was aimed at providing affordable one-bedroom rental units for local tourism, construction and hospitality workers.

Mountain Scene revealed last month that his company also needed Overseas Investment Office approval as the Gorge Rd project had a 70 per cent Australian investor – and the site adjoins a reserve.

Thompson, however, says that wasn’t the primary reason for pulling the plug, “though it wasn’t helpful either”.

New Queenstown mayor Jim Boult is “extremely disappointed” the complex won’t proceed.

His council worked very closely with the developer, he says.

“Until Roy’s proposal went off the table late last week, I thought we were making good progress [on the issue].”

Boult adds: “There are two other proposals around town for similar developments, one of which is at a very advanced state.”

Thompson says he’s aiming to deliver a similar large-scale project on another site.

He won’t reveal whether that’s in central Queenstown or on the Frankton Flats – “we believe both require worker accommodation options”.

However he’d welcome contact from employers interested in leases.

The aborted project’s in a council- and government-approved ‘special housing area’ that allows for high-density developments to be fast-tracked.

Thompson praises Queenstown’s council for its help in processing his resource consent “in a relatively short period of time”.

But he’d like the council to consider formally recognising how crucial it is for the town to provide permanent, high-density worker accommodation.

He says developers could be encouraged by discounted development contributions.

Boult says “we’re considering his proposal”.


Auckland ‘affordable’

Queenstown hospo employers say they’re regularly losing staff because they can’t find affordable rental digs.

It’s “getting critical”, Jono Browne, who runs both casinos, says.

He says he’s even had staff leave for high-price Auckland – “which is very ironical”.

With rising rents, Browne says staff have less discretionary money with which to enjoy the resort.

He says an extra problem is “the public transport system is so inept”.

“We’re just reviewing everything – how we pay our guys, do we invest in staff accommodation ourselves, are there options we can invest in through leases?”

Tracy Pool, group general manager for seven bars, including Winnies, says it’s an extremely serious problem and she thinks it’s going to get worse.

“Our floor staff always come and go, but they’ve never come and gone so fast.”

That’s despite an 18 per cent wage hike for front-of-house staff over the past three to four years.

Pool houses 23 staff in three company- or director-owned houses, but that still leaves another 130 or so.

Staff are paying more than $200-a-week to live in seven-bed dorms.

“When you’re working late nights, that doesn’t work.”

Sombreros restaurant owner Abbey Harmer says: “We had one guy over winter living in a tent because he couldn’t afford accommodation.” – PHILIP CHANDLER