Playground politics at hotel site


A Queenstown developer is accusing a government department of foul play after a threat of judicial review.

The spat between hotel developer Lew Gdanitz and the Ministry of Education is over a fence on Queenstown Playcentre land.

Mipad Holdings boss Gdanitz is building a 54-room hotel next door and stuck up an illegal fence to protect children.

Work continues on the $10 million hotel on Henry Street but Gdanitz worries he’ll be forced to down tools.

He claims the ministry has made legal threats verbally and in writing.

The ministry’s official response is it’s not considering a judicial review “at this stage”.

Ministry infrastructure boss Jerome Sheppard says it will take any action it considers necessary to “support the playcentre and to ensure the safety of their children”.

That line contradicts an email sent from ministry staffer Wayne Tacon to Gdanitz and shared with Mountain Scene.

Tacon wrote on February 23: “We also reserve the right to initiate an action under the Fencing Act to cover your actions to date in removing the common boundary fence and to seek a judicial review of the council’s decision not to notify the consent. This could also lead to an application for an interim injunction.”

Sheppard says the temporary fence erected by Mipad’s contractors doesn’t adequately protect kiddies using the playground. The ministry is seeking assurances from the council, and Worksafe NZ, that health and safety won’t be compromised.

Gdanitz reckons that’s rubbish.

“Child safety is not a game and this is what they are turning this into. I don’t know what it’s trying to achieve.

“We tried to put up a barrier to keep children away from the building site. What do they want - is it more money?”

Mipad Holdings originally offered $5000 for occupying the land, which was rejected. The playcentre demanded $32,000 as compensation.

Gdanitz: “We are in a situation in Queenstown where everyone is screaming out for accommodation. We are doing something about it - but here we have a government department threatening to put a stop to the job for months.

“It just isn’t appropriate behaviour from a government department.”