Court weighs gondola upgrade

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Thinking bigger: An artist's impression of Skyline Queenstown's proposed new complex

An Environment Court judge says unless Skyline Enterprises can resolve parking and stormwater issues it is unlikely to get consent for its gondola redevelopment.

However, in a minute judge John Hassan issued yesterday afternoon, he gave Skyline several options to consider — one of which was to apply for a direct referral to the court over its proposed carparking building.

After the third day of the hearing into the company’s direct referral for its $100 million-plus redevelopment of the gondola and facilities, Hassan says the court’s preliminary view is to withhold making a final decision.

While he and commissioners Kate Wilkinson and Russell Howie are in a position to make a determination on several aspects of Skyline’s proposal, the ‘‘elephants in the room’’ — the car parking and stormwater runoff down the slopes of Ben Lomond — appears to cause some difficulty.

While the latter might be able to be resolved pending further discussions, the issue of the car park is not as simple.

Conditions offered by Skyline for the carpark are ‘‘not valid or appropriate’’ as they stand.

While a condition-based approach could work, it will need to ‘‘deliver certainty’’ on necessary mitigation and provide ‘‘certainty’’ the carparking can be secured and an ‘‘absolute exclusion’’ on commissioning the redeveloped building until the carpark has been commissioned.

The court, however, does not necessarily conclude a car parking building needs to be built, Hassan says.

‘‘A conditioned approach is theoretically possible and that could involve a building already in place, already consented and. . . able to be used in the manner described.’’

That building needs to be ‘‘within a five-minute walk or thereabouts’’ of the bottom terminal, subject to further discussions.

One potential option could be the Man St car park.

Earlier yesterday, the court heard it had been developed to its capacity of 500 car parks – but Southern Planning Group lodged a resource consent application several years ago, seeking to add additional floors.

That application has been on hold since 2006, pending further information.

Hassan says the court could either issue an interim decision and ‘‘park all procedural steps’’ until Skyline has lodged its application and it has been finally determined, including any appeals.

That, however, ‘‘could see an uncertain and inordinate delay’’.

The alternative is to park procedures beyond issuing an interim decision, allowing Skyline to also make an application for the carpark to be direct referred to the court.

The council wouldn’t oppose a direct referral application.

The hearing continues today.

Otago Daily Times