Chinese snap up prime Queenstown site

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China-based investors have snapped up a prime local site destined for a new hotel – and it’s tipped to boost Chinese tourism into Queenstown.

Local Ray White agent Buzz Scown confirms a group of investors based in China has bought an excavated, hotel-consented 1.2-hectare site, behind Frankton Road’s Pounamu Apartments, for $3.6 million.

The same group has also bought an adjacent 1923sq m site, off Panorama Terrace, for $1.1m, he adds.

Scown says the Chinese are keen to build a hotel using the resource consent originally obtained for the site in 2008, by a company belonging to bust developer Dan McEwan.

That consent – extended this April for another three years – was for a 103-room five-star Hilton Hotel, however work stopped after the site was excavated out.

The Hilton chain ended up managing the Kawarau Falls Station complex, on the other side of Frankton Arm.

The site’s been owned for the past three years by Palmerston North-based investor Keith Marriott, who had it listed for $3.5m.

Scown recently also brokered the sale of another local accommodation-zoned site owned by Marriott, beside Rydges Lakeland hotel, for $3.2m.

Scown says his Chinese buyers, who also want to build a hotel in Auckland and possibly one in Christchurch, liked the Frankton Rd site because the hard work obtaining a resource consent has already been done. 

“Internally, they may look for some slightly different layout but it will all be done on a compliant basis.

“They’re on the job – they don’t stop for Christmas.”

Scown says that, unlike apartment developers, they’re not interested in selling down individual units.

It’s likely they’ll also target Chinese tourists to further boost the country’s fastest-growing visitor market, he says.

In March this year, Prime Minister John Key, who’s also the Minister of Tourism, told a business audience that a Chinese hotel should be built in New Zealand.

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd says he can only speculate on what a Chinese hotel will do for visitor numbers: “I would hope new investment would be about targeting growth in visitor numbers [from China].”

As for the site buy itself, Budd says: “I think it’s a positive thing and not unexpected; we probably should expect more. The Chinese have been investing internationally for years – they’re just getting to NZ.”

Chinese make up the second-largest group of tourists coming to New Zealand, with more 230,000 visiting the country each year.

They’re the fifth largest visitor group to Queenstown, which gets about 15 per cent of the Chinese visitors to NZ.