New kids on the block

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All positive for childcare centre as final planning hearing looms.

D-Day is looming for a proposed new childcare centre in Queens­town.

Local businessman Mike Stewart has been battling for two years for permission to build a “badly needed” 45-child facility, with two residential units above it, on Henry Street.

He’s now “quietly optimistic” about it being approved after gathering 48 supporting submissions – and no negative ones – when public consultation closed on January 28.

Next step is for the proposal to go before an independent commissioner at a planning hearing, expected to be held next month.

“It’s almost unprecedented to have so many positive submissions and none against, which is a big step forward,” says Stewart.

“I want to say thanks to Queenstown for standing up and saying that a new childcare centre is what we want.

“Finally, we are just about there.”

To get this far, Stewart says, he’s had to scale a mountain of Government and council red-tape and has put forward 10 different sets of plans.

“Problem is, in the district plan there’s no provision for a creche anywhere in Queenstown, except for in purely commercial areas,” he says.

“I was told I could put one downtown no problem but the land value, lack of parking spaces and outdoor play areas mean you just couldn’t do it.

“We’ve been trying to work with the Ministry of Education as well as the resource-consent rules to get them to match up and marry, and it’s been an uphill battle.

“By right, we could put a 70-person backpackers on the same location at Henry St and it would have been a lot easier.”

He adds: “At times I’ve felt like breaking down, crying and giving up but you live to fight another day and keep on going.”

If dad-of-two Stewart’s plans get the nod in March, he hopes to have the centre open by early 2010.

“There are simply not enough childcare places in Queenstown and some parents are putting names down on a waiting list before their kids are even born,” he says.

“If this centre doesn’t go ahead, then it’ll be another two to four years before the area might see another facility like it.”