New CBD site emerges for conference centre

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The council-owned Gorge Road carpark has emerged as a leading option for Queenstown’s urgently-needed conference centre. 

Queenstown conference centre steering group member Sir Eion Edgar reveals Gorge Rd and a privately-owned Man Street site are the two main contenders. 

“They’ve both got good merit and it’s good to have two competing opportunities,” he says. 

Edgar expects his group will recommend to council, early in the New Year, “at least two and possibly three very good alternatives”. 

Group chair, Queenstown Lakes mayor Vanessa van Uden, says Gorge Rd is among five options. 

“There were a lot of really good ones,” she says. 

Van Uden says Gorge Rd ticks boxes. 

“In terms of location in town, and easy access, and it does line up quite nicely with the other activities in that almost-precinct, in terms of what’s happening with the Memorial Hall.” 

Van Uden – who says the conference centre would be built over the carpark and the spaces will be retained – stresses the concept hasn’t gone to council for any input in terms of it being council land. 

Mountain Scene has learnt the site was proposed by local architectural designer Murray Bennett. 

Bennett is reluctant to comment except for giving reasons why he considers it the best option: “Location, location, location, council already own the land and it’s got a great reserve/park-type precinct setting.” 

That last comment refers to the Recreation Ground, across Horne Creek from the carpark. 

Mountain Scene understands another downtown contender is council’s Stanley Street land – the original site for the proposed Remarkables Centre conference and performing arts centre. 

That concept was thrown out by the previous council when its likely cost blew out to $140 million. 

It’s believed the steering group also received proposals for three Frankton sites – Remarkables Park, the council-owned Events Centre and the Hilton hotel complex in Kelvin Heights. 

However, Edgar notes the conference industry is adamant a venue has to be close to downtown Queenstown – or, in his own words, “within stumbling dis­tance”. 

The steering group was set up in August, following strong lobbying by business and other interests. 

A month earlier, Edgar had told Mountain Scene that Queenstown was missing out because it doesn’t have a 500-plus capacity conference centre. 

“Everyone wins from it – it spreads out [tourism] activity through the year, you bring in the top end of the market,” Edgar said. 

Prime Minister John Key has also said the Government could help out with funding. 

Queenstown’s case is also stronger after the Christchurch convention centre was wiped out by February’s earthquake.