Government may help fund Queenstown complex

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A $50,000 feasibility study gauging demand for a Queenstown convention centre is “well underway”, mayor Vanessa van Uden reveals. 

A consortium of consultants will do the $52,000 study, she confirms. 

“It’s great to now be working [towards] a report for both council and central government to progress the conference centre idea further,” the mayor says. 

Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key, visiting last week, says he’s not ruling out his Government putting some money into a Queenstown convention centre project. 

“But as has been the case with Auckland, our preferred option is to put in as less capital as we can. That’s why we’re in the position where we’re negotiating with SkyCity. 

Key adds: “We’re in the early stages of discussion with a number of partners down here. 

“We think there’s real opportunity here in Queenstown for a convention centre. This is a place where a lot of people want to come.” 

The feasibility study won’t nominate the centre’s location, Van Uden says – yet “a lot of thinking done during the study” would enable a location to be finalised soon afterwards. 

Van Uden can’t say when the study will be finished. 

The consortium comprises local accounting firm WHK, hotel and tourism specialists Horwath HTL and international construction-cost consultancy WT Partnership. 

WHK partner Chris Duffy was a volunteer on Van Uden’s conference centre working party, she says. 

“Given his high-level involvement, it was considered there are benefits in Chris’ involvement with the feasibility study.” 

Van Uden points out Horwarth has done feasibility assessments for convention centres in Wellington and Christchurch and – with WT Partnership – is heavily involved in Auckland’s International Con­vention Centre project, now being 
controversially negotiated by the Government and casino group SkyCity. 

Ironically, the Queenstown council tenders board – which vetted the $52,000 feasibility study because it wasn’t being tendered – haggled over prices. 

“Some [professional] rates were considered high,” a tenders board document reveals, even though those rates were discounted. 

When the study was expanded at the suggestion of the Ministry of Economic Development, the tenders board persuaded the consultants to do the extra work for no extra cost. 

Van Uden says a good relationship has been established with the Ministry over possible funding. 

A local conference centre working party has a shortlist of four preferred sites in Queenstown. 

They are the Gardens ice rink, council-owned Gorge Road carpark, Queenstown Lakes District Council’s Stanley Street land and a privately-owned Man St site home to a multi-level carpark.