Sir Eion says it’s time to break with convention

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Ploughing Queenstown Airport Corporation dividends into funding a resort conference centre is being mooted by prominent local investor Sir Eion Edgar. 

Edgar believes Queenstown urgently needs a 500-plus capacity convention facility. 

“I understand we probably turn down at least a quality conference every month of 500-plus people. 

“And what’s happening is conventions are getting bigger. 

“Everyone wins from it – it spreads out [tourism] activity through the year, you bring in the top end of the market.” 

Edgar suggests a centre would cost $20-$25 million to build, with funding from both the public and private sectors. 

He suggests a good funding source is the annual seven-figure dividend that the airport corporation will now pay its 75 per cent shareholder, Queenstown Lakes District Council – the corporation will also pay a dividend to 
controversial new co-owner Auckland International Airport. 

“There are opportunities to ring-fence that dividend and say, let’s use that to the benefit of the whole community. 

“You could argue that if the council was ever going to consider selling down more of the airport, the one thing the public might support would be if it went into something like a new convention centre.” 

Support for a convention centre also came from Prime Minister John Key when he was in the resort last month. 

“People want to come to Queenstown and any excuse we can offer them will encourage them to be here in a flash,” he told Mountain Scene

The Government could also help: “If a proposal was presented to us, it’s not out of the question that we might put in a contribution. 

“We wouldn’t fully fund it but there are a number of participants who might be interested.” 

Local developer John Martin commissioned plans two years ago for a $25m-$30m convention/arts centre above his Man Street carpark.