Mayor: Let’s win NZ conference centre race’


Queenstown’s mayor hopes the resort can beat Auckland and Christchurch to open a convention centre. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council yesterday announced it had selected a heavyweight eight-party consortium to develop a 750-800-delegate centre. 

The council has also adopted a preferred site – council-owned Lakeview land, off Man Street on the edge of Queenstown’s CBD. 

A $50 million “world-class” centre would be developed by major property players Ngai Tahu Property and Morrison & Co PIP Fund – and operated by Auckland-based SkyCity Entertainment Group, an announcement says. 

Mayor Vanessa van Uden hopes the centre will open its doors in two years, ahead of larger proposed complexes in Auckland and Christchurch, mired in political controversy. 

“This is certainly my aim but there may be hurdles.” 

Van Uden, chair of a conference centre working party says: “We’ve now got some tight deadlines – we’ve just got to get on with it.” 

Echoing local hoteliers, Van Uden believes a centre can fix seasonal downturns affecting their industry – and raise service standards. 

“Rather than having to do so much seasonal employment, they can look at offering permanent full-time, part-time work, year-round, which is a really big plus in terms of customer service and consistency.” 

Council chief executive Adam Feeley says economic modelling suggests some-thing like a convention centre has the potential to increase job numbers by an extraordinary number. 

“Between now and 2021, if nothing in the district changes, over the course of the next eight years this economy probably grows by about $400m per annum and probably we get an additional 2900 jobs. If there is a major catalyst for development in and around the CBD of Queenstown, your economy probably grows $1.5 billion per annum and you have an additional 10,500 jobs created. When you think we’ve got 16,000 jobs, an additional 10,500 is quite transformational.” 

Van Uden says the Lakeview site didn’t have the constraints of others. 

A centre would take up 1.4 hectares, leaving 2.55ha vacant. It’s understood downtown sites on Gorge Road and Stanley Street aren’t totally discarded. 

Van Uden confirms she’ll discuss a Government contribution with Prime Minister John Key who is visiting this week. 

The Government’s hinted at about $10m – but there are hopes it’ll contribute more to a project it considers to be of national importance.

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