Council looks to fast-track downtown builds


Construction of six-storey buildings in Queenstown’s Gorge Road could be possible within a year, if a request to accelerate land-use rules is approved by the Environment Court.

Queenstown Lakes District Council district plan manager Matthew Paetz said in the best-case scenario, developers could be able to apply to the council for consents by late this year.

That would be possible only if an application to the Environment Court to accelerate parts of the council’s proposed district plan is approved and not delayed by appeals or a review.

There might not be any developers interested in building six-storey buildings, but some interest had been expressed to the council already, from at least two developers, in building larger buildings in Gorge Rd, Mr Paetz said.

The council hoped to lodge the application to fast-track three parts of the proposed plan with the Environment Court in about three weeks.

If approved it would give immediate legal effect to the selected changes, which are: the establishment of a business mixed-use zone allowing up to six-storey residential activity in Gorge Rd and up to four-storey buildings in Anderson Heights, Wanaka; allowing one attached or detached self-contained flat of up to 70sq m on a property; and reducing the minimum size of sections (with conditions) in the low-density residential zone.

The measures are part of a raft of changes proposed in the draft district plan, which aims to make it possible to build additional housing in Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka.

It is expected six months of hearings will take place next year before a commissioner’s decision on the rest of the plan.

Mr Paetz said it could be several years before the plan took effect but there was a need for more residential, visitor and worker accommodation now, which was why fast-tracking parts of the plan was desired.

”In our view being ready to accept new development under these new rules about two and a-half years earlier is preferable when we are facing some pretty pressing housing issues.”

He expected to receive opposition to some of the proposals outlined by the council, but there had already been positive feedback.

Planning and development manager Mark Bretherton said there were lots of changes in the new plan, but as plans were only reviewed once every 10 to 15 years multiple changes were to be expected, especially in an area with such high commercial, residential and visitor growth.

A lot of in-fill development was proposed, which was necessary because the Queenstown lakes district was restricted by geography and a small ratepayer base, making it important to make the best use of existing infrastructure.

Mr Bretherton has previously said asking the Environment Court to agree to a pro-development, pro-density approach was unusual, but to address housing affordability in Queenstown some things needed to be done immediately, and the council was looking for the support of the court to allow that.

– Otago Daily Times