A fast track to high-rise madness

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OPINION: You have to wonder why Queenstown’s council appears so hell-bent on a to the CBD.

For those living under a rock, the council for some time has been trying to get cracking on a $60 million-plus international convention centre on the Lakeview site, off Man Street.

Then, presumably while preparing to rezone the site, it, or its consultants, have hit upon the idea of also applying a ‘town centre’ zoning over a wide swathe of properties between Lakeview and the existing CBD.

In preparing its plan change 50, the council’s also, controversially, proposed new height limits for this area ranging from three storeys high up to a mind-boggling seven storeys.

If you were revolted by the Surfers Paradise-like artist’s impression of what this could look like, published on the cover of Mountain Scene two months ago, you’re not alone.

I’ve always advocated that some high-rise right up against Ben Lomond makes sense, but this scary image showed the new town centre zone completely dwarfing the current CBD.

Surely it’s going to be hard to prove these taller buildings won’t block people’s views and sunlight.

Also, this amount of development will only further increase the traffic and parking problems already besetting central Queenstown.

You’d think it would make more sense to first construct the long-awaited Man St bypass.

But guess what? That’s now been put off till at least, wait for it, 2040.

Then you’ve got to ask what demand there is to increase the size of the CBD, at least for another decade.

Already, there’s quite a lot of upstairs office space not spoken for.

Downtown landlords won’t be amused, I’m sure, if offices shift to the new town centre zone in search of cheaper rent.

It’s ironic that our Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a move to revitalise the CBD when arguably plan change 50 could tear it apart. The council’s main argument for the plan changes is that the existing CBD is almost fully developed.

But hang on. Just last week it was revealed the council’s district plan review proposes increasing the maximum height of a whole blocked bordered by Stanley, Shotover, Camp and Ballarat streets from 12m to either 14m or 15m.

That effectively means from three storeys to a maximum of four.

Another case, perhaps, of the council’s left hand not knowing what its right hand is up to?

But most of all, you’ve got to query the cost of this plan change which the council seems to want to fast-track – in contrast to the leisurely pace at which it often handles other people’s planning issues.

An expert reckons it could tie up the council for 10 years in handling appeals lodged by property owners both inside and outside the proposed zone.

If that pans out, think of the millions of ratepayers’ money that will be gobbled up by consultants and lawyers.

Surely ratepayers’ money would be better spent fixing council’s creaking sewerage, water and roading infrastructure.

Or even on a convention centre.

scoop@scene.co.nz