Casino giant interest in Queenstown convention centre now ‘unknown’

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The latest council report on a proposed Queenstown convention centre notes the interest from a casino giant is unknown. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council, which in August released this artist’s impression (pictured) by design firm Populous, today considers a new master-plan and guiding principles for the resort’s potentially game-changing project. 

It comes on the back of an announcement by council earlier this week that it is in talks with Ngai Tahu Tourism about developing $25 million hot pools complex alongside a convention centre at council’s preferred Lakeview Holiday Park site up Man Street. 

The council agenda for today reveals it’s also discussing a new “recreational business opportunity” with an unnamed company. 

Council chief executive Adam Feeley says: “We can’t disregard the confidentiality of our discussions so there isn’t really anything we can say any other then the obvious – if it were to go ahead we are confident that it would not conflict with other possible uses up at the site.” 

The agenda item for councillors says it should be noted “the interest/commitment from SkyCity is unknown”.
That cautious reference comes after public consultation in August found 43 per cent opposed or strongly opposed a relocated casino at the site – 25 per cent supported or strongly supported it.
 
Back in February, a consortium led by Ngai Tahu Property and Morrison and Co was selected by council as the preferred party to enter negotiations for a $50 million, 750-person centre. 

SkyCity Entertainment Group was selected by council as the preferred operator – and that same month
SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison told Mountain Scene his hopes for involvement could form part of a wider casino development, VIP gambling suits and a purpose-built luxury hotel with restaurants and bars. 

Today’s council agenda says: “Overall, at this stage, it is recommended that the opportunity to involve SkyCity in the project is at least explored. This will necessarily require discusssions with the Crown as to the relocation of their existing Queenstown licenses to the Lakeview site,” the agenda says, in reference to the fact casino licenses granted by the Government are site-specific. 

SkyCity Entertainment Group has the license for its casino on Beach St and one at Steamer Wharf – SkyCity snapped up that license earlier this year. 

The report recommends noting consortium partners Populous/Fearon Hay recommend a master-plan that enables an “integrated development with mixed commercial/residential/public use. 

It also recommends council note consultancy CBRE recommends an operating structure where council shares in revenue from the site development through a development agreement with a private consortium and that either: a centre operator (SkyCity or another party if feasible) is brought in to own and operate the convention centre as part of a wider commericial operation; or council owns the centre (but has private management) and partially funds its contribution from development of the remaining Lakeview land. 

The item also recommends councillors authorise Feeley to enter negotiations with commercial developers for development of their proposals at the site and potential private sector partners for the balance of the land. 

It also noted options presented for the delivery of the balance of the site could offset centre costs by $10-30m over time. 

Finally, while the private sector is expected to play a key part in developing the balance of land and potentially the centre itself, no matter how delivered, a degree of council and or Government funding will be required, it says. 

In October, mayor Vanessa van Uden sent a formal request to Government for a $20 million contribution. In that letter, Van Uden highlighted the “disproportionate costs the district bears in relation to domestic and international visitor numbers and has sought Government support for some form of additional funding for the district for this effect, whether by way of a visitor levy or similar…”.