Does Queenstown need more residential zoning?


Hundreds of residential sections are proposed for the Queenstown area under a special housing area accord – but some are questioning why they are needed, with developers sitting on land already zoned for residential development.

Queenstown Lakes district’s special housing accord should result in as many as 1300 “affordable” houses becoming available in the district over the next three years.

One special housing area has been approved by the Government, and the council is considering four more before making recommendations.

Yet earlier this month, the council also considered an application for changing the district plan to allow 1800 new residential properties at Jacks Point – which would exceed the accord’s target in one hit.

While that developer, RCL Queenstown Pty Ltd, says it is ready to proceed, another major landowner says the regulatory environment is making it difficult for planned residential development to proceed.

Remarkables Park Ltd co-director Alastair Porter says his high-density residential-zoned land has the potential for up to 5000 units and he questions why the council is creating more residential zones, instead of helping with infrastructure required to develop land already zoned.

He says infrastructure should be built before housing sites are developed, while the council says the sites should be developed first.

“You’ll get people say ‘they’ve got a lot of land and they’re land banking”, Porter says.

“My answer to that is the quick thing that we could do, in my view responsibly, would be to cut Remarkables Park up into 500-house sections, sell it off and walk away from it.

“Our argument is this land has been zoned by council for a long time – why on earth not get on and provide the roading, or facilitate the roading, that would enable that zoning to be developed, instead of saying ‘let’s go and create more zoning somewhere else’?”

It would be more sensible to encourage zoning next to intensive nodes of development than to develop away from centres, as appeared to be happening with the special housing accords, he says.

He also says the delay in the construction of the eastern arterial road, which will ultimately link State Highway 6 to Remarkables Park by going around the back of Queenstown Airport’s main runway, is one of the key issues delaying his development.

He believes potential buyers want surety of infrastructure before committing to development.

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden disputes a suggestion by Porter that the council is making it expensive for developers with its required $16,358 per-section development contribution.

She says the money helps cover the additional pressure on the community at large resulting from increased capacity.

She believes it is developers’ responsibility to provide infrastructure.

However, the eastern arterial road is “slightly different”, she says.

It is being funded by the council, the New Zealand Transport Agency and landowners, including Remarkables Park and Queenstown Central Ltd, the developer of Five Mile, though the developers should pay, she says.

“We have had to build [the roads] to a capacity for the demand [they] are creating.”

One of the key reasons the district signed up to the accord, she says, was because the council is not able to force developers’ hands to build anything.

“People keep saying to us ‘with all this stuff zoned, why have we needed to do anything?’

“Because there are no sunset clauses – we can zone it and the landowners can sit on it forever.”

Under the special housing accord rules, developers have only a limited time in which to build, and when the council signed the accord, “nothing much was moving”.

Since then, the RCL plan change has resumed and Kelvin Heights landowner Frank Mee has been granted non-notified consent for a 17-lot subdivision on land he owns off Peninsula Rd.

Van Uden welcomed both developments and said every house would help to ease the shortage in the district – and that the special housing accords might provide an incentive for other developers.

“It would be wrong to assume the targets in the special housing area were all that we needed.

“I don’t know exactly how much is needed … but one of the things that would happen is housing would become cheaper.

“The special housing [areas] are all about increasing supply – and part of that equation is that [if] you increase supply, it isn’t such a great incentive for the people that are holding on to land to continue to hold on to it.

“There’s a balance point and then you hope that they release it as well to the market.”

For her, it was about people being able to afford to live in Queenstown, either by buying or renting.

“That’s a real problem for us at the moment, as a community.

“Happy people that can raise families here and have a decent place to live make much better employees and ambassadors for what we are.

“People that are tired, cold and stressed don’t.”

Otago Daily Times