Centre plans will progress until Porter builds – mayor

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The mayor vows not to halt progress toward a Queenstown convention centre unless sods start turning for a Frankton proposal.

Queenstown Lakes district mayor Vanessa van Uden put the stake in the ground this week, saying in an interview with Mountain Scene: “Until you’ve got a certain outcome on the alternative you’d be foolish to stop making progress.” 

Developer Alastair Porter, a key figure in the Remarkables Park town centre precinct at Frankton, is claiming his Porter Group can fund a no-frills Frankton centre and open doors by 2015.

Porter – who already submitted an earlier rejected centre plan to council – made the claims last month in a statement. It was issued the night before a special council meeting to further progress a $50 million centre on council-owned Lakeview land up Man Street.

At the time, Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Adam Feeley described Porter’s proposal as “laughable” and the timeframe as impossible.

Feeley also said he believed the move by Porter was destructive and aimed at stalling Queenstown centre plans so Porter could have one at Frankton as a catalyst for his development. Porter described that as “completely wrong”, saying he felt his Frankton plan would benefit downtown too.

Feeley, who oversaw the redevelopment of Auckland’s Eden Park rugby stadium in 2011, has said he’d advise council to “stop or at least suspend” a proposed downtown centre only if Porter can deliver funding proof, design, costings and an operator agreement.

However, Van Uden now takes that a step further: “I’d be really nervous to stop one in town based on Alastair building one. I think he needs to actually have turned dirt and have let contracts and started building stuff before I’d consider letting something in town go.

“We could stop doing anything in town and we could still be here waiting for progress in two years, find out Alastair isn’t actually going to kick that off and then we’ve lost another two years.

“I can’t see any sense in us stopping progressing in town,” she says.

Van Uden says no approaches have been made between her or Porter about meeting and “the ball’s in his court as far as I’m concerned”.

“I see the two moving forward in parallel – but we’re not going to cut one off to wait for the other one to be delivered on.

“At some stage in the future there may be a point where there needs to be a decision made but at the moment there’s nothing concrete in terms of Alastair’s one.”

Council has resolved to lead a centre proposal up Man St as part of an integrated development, conditional on some Government funding, a preferred rating model and business plan.

Porter, who vows his company doesn’t suggest proposals it can’t deliver, has previously said his centre is an innovative, uncomplicated design and could be built in nine months.

Porter has declined to release information asked for by Feeley, saying it’s a private enterprise and he doesn’t want to provide details to a competitor – adding council is a competitor.