I’m with Lynch hands off the tranquil Queenstown Gardens

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If Mike Lynch is a grumpy old git, as has been alleged in our opinion pages this week, then at least he’s our grumpy old git. 

Lynch, the Friends of the Queenstown Gardens and Reserves spokesman, sounded off in Mountain Scene last week when made aware that the Gardens ice rink was now a site in contention for Queenstown’s much-anticipated conference centre. 

“Bloody awful,” was long-time Queenstowner Lynch’s blunt assessment of the proposal. 

“People such as the redoubtable Margaret Templeton and others fought for decades to preserve the Gardens from commercial development and this seems nothing if not a commercial development. 

“At least the ice rink, even though it’s commercial, does sort of have a leisure purpose,” Lynch argued. 

Lynch copped all sorts of personal abuse in comments on scene.co.nz – people slagged him as negative, grumpy, old, git, dinosaur, old-timer, and someone even accused him of being possessed of the kind of “can’t” attitude that the Government’s identified as a major hindrance to economic progress. Steady on. 

No doubt Lynch, who in my experience has never come across as any of the above, took it all in his stride. He also had a few supporters too – and I’m one of them. 

I couldn’t agree with him more – I think putting a conference centre anywhere near the Gardens would be a spectacularly bad move. 

And for much the same reasoning as Lynch. 

The Gardens is supposed to be a peaceful haven away from the maddening crowd. It’s about trees and flowers, picnics, feeding the ducks, and walking the dog. Yes, it does have tennis courts, a bowling green, skate park and frisbee golf course but they’re all leisurely pursuits that fit the ambience of the place. 

As does the ice rink to a degree. 

But a conference centre does not. It’s a commercial beast serving a commercial purpose that’ll be hosting lots of suit-wearers no doubt nipping out during breaks for a ciggie and a takeaway coffee – a worker-like atmosphere. 

Is that really the kind of activity that we want to see the tranquil Gardens infected with. To paraphrase that lawyer in The Castle, it just ain’t the right vibe, your honour. 

The whole proposal should live or die on this argument alone – is it the right fit? 

Conversely, the decision should be made irrespective of the merits of moving the ice rink out to the Events Centre – which makes plenty of sense – and the actual nuts-and-bolts plan to convert the existing ice rink building into a conference centre – which I’m sure is a very good one. Don’t get me wrong – Queenstown needs a conference centre and it’ll be great when a site is finalised. But just not the Gardens, please. 

We’ll have to watch this space. In our front-page story last week conference centre working party member Sir Eion Edgar said he thought it was a wonderful idea. It’s now on the shortlist of favoured sites. 

In the meantime, thank heaven for people like Lynch, grumpy old git or otherwise. 

People like that tend not to have much fear of putting their head above the parapet to say what they think. 

The more of Lynch’s mob, the merrier.