New controversy over $70m conference centre


IF you thought Queenstown hotels were bound to back the council’s $70 million CBD
convention centre – think again.

Mountain Scene approached owners and operators of 14 hotels to find only two are firm fans.

Another four are staunchly opposed and six more hotels want to support a convention centre but
are unconvinced by current information.

Millbrook Resort and Heartland Hotels wouldn’t comment.

The biggest critic is Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MCH), with three properties totalling 546 rooms in central Queenstown.

MCH slams the council’s accommodation rates rise in an enlarged CBD, and its hoped-for bed tax, to help fund the conference centre.

The chain fears the centre might be a loss-maker “cannibalising” MCH and other businesses.

Also firmly opposed is The Rees.

Manager Mark Rose says mayor Vanessa van Uden’s campaigned on holding rates but now wants to
hit CBD accommodation houses with rises of up to 30 per cent.

Rose says civic expenditure should focus on traffic and parking rather than a new convention centre with an adjoining hotel, straining existing infrastructure even further.

Given that Frankton developer Remarkables Park wants to build its own convention centre, Rose asks why this private venture isn’t getting council support.

Graham Wilkinson, Sofitel and St Moritz freehold owner, is both pro and anti about council

“A convention centre has to be good for hoteliers but there’s certainly risk attached.

“My vote would be yes” – but only with strict cost guarantees, he says.

A bed tax would also have to be “solely” for convention centre funding and the tax killed when the centre’s paid off.

Other hoteliers are also wannabe supporters but wary of current information.

Mercure’s Dean Daniels: “Our support continues but our doubts have deepened.”

Crowne Plaza’s Reinier Eulink: “In principle we support the centre [but] I don’t know the council has the right solution yet.”

Novotel Lakeside’s Jim Moore: “We haven’t had enough detail for a decision.”

The Heritage’s group conference boss Jaco Uys is a supporter - but not if the centre’s rates-funded.

Two unequivocal supporters are Goldridge’s Penny Clark and Rydges Lakeland’s Justin Mitchell.

Mitchell says the centre should be up-sized to take 1200 delegates.

At least, mayor Vanessa van Uden says, 10 of the 14 hotels have an open mind.

“But like anyone asked to pay additional rates they’re reluctant to personally take on the funding burden.”

That’s why the government’s been asked to put in money, she says.

With almost every council decision, “there’ll be those who support it and some who oppose it”.