Frankton noses ahead in convention war


A major milestone in the development of Queenstown’s first full-blown conference centre has been reached.

Frankton Flats developer Remarkables Park Ltd has this month lodged its consent application to build and operate a $25 million-plus convention centre, the first stage of which will comfortably handle 600 delegates.

“It’s a huge milestone to have got to this stage,” Remarkables Park boss Alastair Porter says.

That gives Porter’s company the jump on Queenstown council’s proposed but stalled Lakeview conference centre near the Queenstown CBD.

Porter believes the council should now use that site for affordable housing - what it was originally zoned for, he says.

“The downtown hotels do not need a downtown conference centre to fill their hotel rooms.

“If they do have a conference centre there they will be displacing tourists who are currently staying there.”

Porter believes downtown operators won’t miss out from a conference centre at Remarkables Park.

“Everybody who comes to a conference at Remarkables Park over three or four days is going to visit the downtown and do some shopping and eating at some stage.”

Porter thinks he’ll probably receive a non-notified resource consent from the council late next month, after which he’ll settle on development partners and an operator.

“We expect any operator to bring some funding to the table for some of the internal work.”

Porter says the successful operator will also have a say on the internal design of the centre.

That would need to be finalised before they apply for a council building consent.

Meantime, he says work on the access road and services on the site will begin this spring.

His best guess is that building work will start next year, and the centre would open sometime in 2018.

“We’ll build stage one first, whether we can build stage two at the same time will depend on who the development partners are.”

Brian Howie, regional chair for Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s hotel sector, says a conference centre would be one way for Queenstown hotels to build business in the shoulder seasons.

“It’s good-value business that comes in - the spend that you get from a typical conference delegate tends to be higher - so I think, generally speaking, [a conference centre] would be welcomed by the hoteliers.”

Porter first applied for a conference centre two years ago, however he put his proposal on hold while he prepared plans for a $50m gondola from Remarkables Park to The Remarkables skifield.

In May, Mountain Scene revealed he’d moved the centre closer to the Kawarau River, rotated it 90 degrees, and had Dunedin-based architects Mason & Wales come up with a more striking design.