DoC dragging feet on deal

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The Department of Conservation is keeping the local council dangling over a big Queenstown Hill land swap going back decades. 

Jo Conroy, boss of Queenstown Lakes District Council contractor APL Property, says she’s been haggling with DoC since 2002. 

“It’s been a very painful process,” Conroy sighs. 

The swap’s been on the table since the 1990s, Conroy says, and was agreed in principle about 2006 – subject to valuations. 

The council wants to swap six hectares it administers on Queenstown Hill above the Commonage Close complex, stretching left to the Heritage Heights apartment block. 

In return, the council wants eight hectares of DoC land near Vancouver Drive on the ‘corner’ of Queenstown Hill above Frankton Road. 

If the swap’s consummated, the council will subdivide and sell off the ex-DoC land as the final stage of its lucrative Commonage development. 

Conroy told councillors earlier this month she expects a decision from DoC on the swap sometime this year.
Conroy also warned councillors DoC promised her a decision several times last year and it didn’t happen. 

Inevitably, the impasse is over money. 

Conroy: “We’re arguing with DoC that there’s no difference between the two sites value-wise and we’re waiting for DoC to come back and accept that.” 

When comparative prices were first pitched in 2007-08, DoC argued there was a difference in value and demanded money from the council, she says. 

Conroy: “That was at the peak of the market and because of the way the market’s moved since, the valuers have sat down, banged heads together and agreed there probably isn’t any difference in value now.” 

So what’s up, DoC? 

Mountain Scene called Neil Clifton in Dunedin on his first day as DoC’s acting Otago-Southland conservator – and Clifton agrees the swap’s been delayed for years. 

Clifton says it’s for a variety of reasons including “a series of boundary amendments, complex valuation issues, QLDC reviewing the economics of the overall transaction, and more recently the need to obtain up-to-date valuations”. 

Clifton: “The department now has all the information to be able to sign off on the valuations and I expect to advise QLDC of the outcome shortly.” 

Conroy isn’t holding her breath.