Council’s fast-track flop


Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden admits the council’s much-vaunted special housing area policy is failing.

But she’s calling for patience.

“Stick with it,” she says to Queenstown residents struggling to buy a house.

She concedes no fast-tracked houses will be signed off by the year anniversary - on October 23 - of her signing an accord with Building Minister Nick Smith designed to tackle the resort’s chronic housing shortage.

The target was 1300 new houses over three years - including 350 in the first 12 months.

The council refused to cough up figures yesterday but Van Uden thinks 350 houses would have been built anyway within 12 months.

She says: “I think it will still be OK.”

But, not one plot of land has yet been fast-tracked. And house prices continue to rise, locking many first-home buyers, at least, out of the market.

One development, Bridesdale Farm, has been pushed through but it’s yet to get resource consent.

Van Uden tells the Scene there are no “magic answers” to Queenstown’s housing shortage.

But veteran Queenstown developer David Broomfield says the council’s gone about its policy all wrong.

“You can do as much planning as you like, but I think the attitude of the council has to change - it has to work with the people who are prepared to do it.”

Special housing areas might be a solution in Auckland, he says, but a different plan is needed in the resort because of “extreme protection” of some areas.

“There’s only one sector that makes these things happen, and they’re either the developers or the people with the money.”

Van Uden says the special housing areas process has been “difficult”, slower than expected, and has attracted fewer expressions of interest from developers than she had hoped.

“I think you’re always a bit punished by looking at things in hindsight – ideally we’d like to have had more but it didn’t work out that way.”

SHAs aren’t the only answer to the district’s housing woes, she says.

Van Uden says the council might consent 350 new houses by October 23 - but it will have nothing to do with the council’s fast-track.

She’s unsure what effect it will have on later years.

The council appears to have changed tack - putting its faith, instead, on denser development through district plan changes.

Bridesdale Farm, a 146-section subdivision near Lake Hayes approved by the government as an SHA in June, remains the only one to get the tick so far. Building could start in December, subject to resource consent and engineering approvals.

Four other fast-tracked developments - totalling 175 lots - are being subjected to more council scrutiny.

Private developers continue to release sections to the market, the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust has begun a development at Shotover Country and the council will look at affordable housing opportunities on its own land.

Van Uden says the council has no plans to go back to the seven SHA applicants that missed the cut in June.

Queenstown’s housing shortage has shot to national prominence, with boarding houses crammed with more than 20 people.

One tenant took his landlord to a tribunal after he allegedly smashed a heater with a hammer.