Gardens watchdog frosty on parks


A watchdog group which fervently guards Queenstown Gardens is poring over planned additions to the Ice Arena.

Mike Lynch, spokesman for Friends of The Gardens & Reserves, says they’ve been consulted by Ice Arena management.

Members will make a site visit before the group finalises a stance on the proposed development, he says.

“While [the group’s] sympathetic to the Ice Arena’s general intentions to improve the facility … we are of course concerned to maintain the integrity of the Gardens management plan,” Lynch warns.

In mid-March Queenstown council’s property sub-committee secretly approved Ice Arena plans for “new toilets, large male and female changing rooms and a large meeting space”.

The approval only came to light among piles of paperwork tabled at April 30’s council meeting.

A council report says the Ice Arena will increase its building footprint by about 110sq m at the front of the complex, an area used for parking.

“The extension sits within existing building lines and is not outside their lease,” the report says.

Yet officials admit carparks will be lost and the extensions will draw more people to the rink who may “require carparking used by other Gardens users”.

Ice Arena co-owner Dan Graham assures Mountain Scene only four carparks will go.

Lost parking is “a potential concern”, Gardens group spokesman Lynch says.

“That area’s an overflow for all-day parking and the council advertises it as such.”

The watchdog group also plans to meet council staff to discuss the proposed development.

In the 1970s and 80s, Lynch’s group successfully blocked two big hotel developers from grabbing Gardens reserve land.

In 2010 the council leased the run-down ice rink to the Graham family for 33 years.

As a lease condition, the Grahams have since spent over $500,000 on improvements.

Their rent is five per cent of gross revenue or $10,000 annually, whichever is greater - although it’s understood there’s a current rent review.

Council officials report the Grahams have significantly boosted patronage, making the present facilities inadequate.

Better facilities will also enable the business “to properly cater for larger sporting events … [which] would bring huge benefits to the community”, officials claim.

Graham says the additions will be done next summer.

Together with major internal improvements, he says his family will pump about another $750,000 into the Ice Arena.