Two housing developments aimed at solving Queenstown’s accommodation woes are in a flood zone.
Queenstown council’s Gorge Road special housing area, which is being considered by Housing Minister Nick Smith, and Gerry Oudhoff’s private Bowen Street Cottages, are in the middle of a hazard zone caused by two nearby creeks.
Brewery Creek, in particular, caused chaos during the 1999 floods when large volumes of debris and sediment inundated the area, cutting off access to Gorge Road and impacting businesses and residential properties.
Details of the threat of debris and flooding from engorged creeks aren’t on the council’s dedicated webpage on its proposed special housing area, but are laid out in a council-commissioned report.
The Opus report from last year says: “Gorge Road is prone to debris flows and flooding … The elevated alluvial fan areas are prone to cause debris flow and more severe damage to property, whilst the areas further downstream on the flatter land will be prone to flooding laden with finer sediment and this will be less damaging.”
Council planning practice boss Blair Devlin tells Mountain Scene it excluded particular areas of land from the proposed fast-tracked housing area because of the potential risk.
Last month Smith visited Queenstown to look at Wakatipu High School in Gorge Rd as a potential site for intensive housing development when the school shifts to Frankton.
It too sits in the hazard zone.
Bowen Street Cottages owner Gerry Oudhoff, who wants to build 32 homes within the hazard zone, says he was aware of the risk when he bought the land.
If resource consent is granted he plans on spending $500,000 on flood protection work, and two new bridges.
He says the project wouldn’t go ahead if people were at risk.
Mismanagement over the years is also a factor.
“The river had full control. If you got a lot of rain the river would get all excited and water went everywhere. At the end of the day it is going to be better for everyone if we can do our work to it.”
He reckons City Hall needs to help sort the issue.
The proposed housing area includes the current Wakatipu High School site, excluding the playing fields, and on the opposite side of the road, all land from the Caltex corner down to and including Gorge Rd Retail Centre, next to Matakauri Park.
Devlin says if Smith accepts the special housing area then all consent applications will need a thorough hazard assessment.
He stresses these can be declined “if natural hazards are not properly addressed”.
Otago Regional Council’s stakeholder engagement director Caroline Rowe says its hazards and engineering staff are assessing the applications and no decisions have been made.
Oudhoff says safety is paramount but he isn’t fussed on council delays.
“I’ve spent five months working on this now - it should have taken five weeks.”