Council’s ‘skulduggery’ over cabins


Queenstown’s council says it will potentially rent out Lakeview cabins once a deadline for owners to remove them has passed.

One cabin owner, who accuses the council of ‘skulduggery’, says the council is intent on taking over as many cabins as possible and renting them out at market rates. 

The leases of 77 privately owned cabins on the mainly council-owned Lakeview site, which is earmarked for a convention centre and other redevelopment, expire on September 30 with no right of renewal.

Owners had until January 30 to pick one of three options – remove or demolish their cabins at their own cost, arrange for the council to remove them for a $10,000 fee, or gift them to the council. 

But fewer than a quarter of cabin owners affected by the moves to extend Queenstown’s CBD have told the council what they plan to do.

In all, 16 owners have picked a preferred option.

Fifteen have decided to gift their cabins to the council - the other will remove their cabin.

Council chief executive Adam Feeley says it will “potentially” rent out the cabins remaining on the site following a one-month grace period after September 30.

The rent received will offset the cost of removing the cabins before redevelopment begins.

Tenants living in privately owned cabins might be able to continue as tenants under council ownership “case-by-case”.

Feeley sasy: “We will discuss options with those parties.”

Feeley confirms the council has discussed moving some or all of the cabins to an alternative site to be rented out.

But it’s “most likely” the cabins will not be moved until a redevelopment agreement is in place.

A Brisbane-based cabin owner, Lucy Bell, says the council is intent on taking over as many cabins as possible and renting them out at market rates until the land is redeveloped. 

She accuses the council of “skulduggery” by deliberately keeping cabin owners uninformed, and of using bullying tactics when owners and tenants raise their concerns with council staff.

Bell says she would rather demolish her cabin than give it to the council.

“If I leave my house here, they will rent it out for 400 bucks a week.”

Tenants now paying an average of $150 a week – many of them retired, low-wage workers or on welfare – can not afford the likely doubling of their rents, she says.

“The council might as well evict everyone and admit it.”

Despite continuing to receive rent notices, she says she’s never received a council letter reminding her of her lease’s expiry, or explaining the implications of plan change 50.

Other absentee owners have not received such letters, with the council having “just stuck notices under the houses”.

Council communications manager Michele Poole says the council wrote to all cabin owners in early December to remind them of the expiry date and explain their options.

A similar letter was delivered to the occupants of the cabins, she says.

About 15ha of land will be rezoned as town centre under the controversial plan change 50.

Public hearings were held in December and last month, and will wrap up later this month. 

Otago Daily Times