Battle for prime Queenstown land heats up


A QUEENSTOWN company is taking its battle with the Queenstown Lakes District Council over developing prime land to the High Court.
Shotover Park Ltd (SPL) has lodged an appeal over the Environment Court’s interim decision on the re-zoning of land at Frankton Flats. 

The 69ha of rural fields, off State Highway 6 near the Events Centre, is being re-designated to allow for urban development. 

SPL _ run by Remarkables Park Ltd developer Alastair Porter and his family _ plans a $50 million retail site on land it owns there. That includes two “big box” stores _ a Pak’n Save supermarket and a Mitre 10 Mega hardware store. 

The Environment Court’s interim ruling sides with the council’s original Plan Change 19 decision to zone that section of Frankton Flats for industrial use. 

Mr Porter said his company “regretted” the action but had little choice but to appeal. 

It was lodged on Tuesday. 

“There are issues with the decision worthy of appeal and the companies need to preserve their rights in respect of those issues,” Mr Porter said. 

The company “remained committed to achieving an agreed settlement to avoid further litigation” and planned to meet the QLDC as early as today (Thursday) to explore settlement options, he said. 

Queenstown Mayor Vanessa Van Uden said when contacted “it is disappointing that the resolution of Frankton Flats is set to be protracted”. 

SPL’s appeal takes issue with 72 of the court’s findings and determinations, and lists 20 “questions of law”. 

Foodstuffs South Island Ltd, which operates Pak’n Save, has also appealed the interim decision, which was released in early February. 

“The community will no doubt be surprised by some key aspects of the PC19 decision,” Mr Porter said. 

“Firstly, the council spent considerable time and money preventing, rather than enabling, development. 

“For a long time, council opposed both Pak’n Save and Mitre 10 Mega developments, yet no member of the Queenstown community ever lodged submissions against them. 

“In fact, they have been widely supported.” 

The five-year dispute is complicated by a separate Environment Court decision to approve resource consent for the two stores after hearings last year. 

That decision gave approval to Cross Roads Properties (Mitre 10 Mega) and Foodstuffs South Island Ltd and has itself been appealed to the High Court by developer Tony Gapes’ firm Queenstown Central. 

Queenstown Central plans to build a $125 million mall on land next to the contested zones _ on land dubbed Hendo’s Hole after a failed development by David Henderson. 

In turn, SPL lodged a High Court appeal against planning approval for Gapes’ development _ dubbed Five Mile _ in November 2012. 

In 2007, the council notified its intention to change its district plan to allow for the urbanisation of Frankton Flats _ labelled Plan Change 19. 

Eleven parties later submitted appeals to the Environment Court. 

Mr Porter, reflecting on the process, says the delays are symptomatic of a much deeper problem: “An inability for the Queenstown community to be able to shape its own future without having to call in outsiders in the form of expensive consultants, commissioners, lawyers and ultimately judges to resolve community issues”. 

“The cost is enormous, the time to find a resolution takes forever, the outcome is unpredictable and sometimes not what the community wants or ever envisaged. 

“A key reason for this is the community’s views and those affected landowners are not being fairly considered by staff at council, and ultimately by elected members of the council.” 

Two weeks ago, Queenstown Airport boss Scott Paterson said efforts to wrestle a different parcel of land from Remarkables Park Ltd were “slow, frustrating and extremely litigious”. 

Mr Porter labelled his comments “misleading public relations spin”. 

The developer also says the plan change process is too complicated for a layman to understand and councils throughout New Zealand should “make a genuine effort to canvas community views in relation to planning proposals”. 

“The fundamental issue is that the council is promoting extraordinarily complex planning documents which even the court had trouble understanding, and which the community could have had no hope of understanding. 

“For whatever reasons, the council has consistently refused to provide clear statements regarding its intended outcomes for the Frankton Flats. 

“Instead, they have constantly changed their plans and have hidden behind nebulous planning jargon.” 

The community was never asked for its views in straightforward terms, he said.