New official study looks at how we’re growingand growing

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A 20-year growth study released this week by Queenstown Lakes District Council predicts the changing shape of the Wakatipu. 

After Queenstown and Wanaka’s 30 per cent population and housing boom between 2001-06, there’s more modest growth projected out to 2031. 

The Wakatipu’s population is still tipped to grow by 54 per cent over two decades – from this year’s 19,150 to 29,543 – but the pace isn’t as heady. 

Housing growth climbs more steeply – by 59 per cent – to a predicted total of 15,042 dwellings. 

A notable change in the new stats is a revision of projected visitor numbers by the Tourism Strategy Group, reducing annual increases from 2.9 per cent to 2.2 per cent. 

Nevertheless, Wakatipu visitor nights are projected to increase 35 per cent by 2031 – to 5.4 million bed-nights annually. 

“Visitor units” of accommodation should therefore grow from about 6750 now to around 8500. A “unit” is anything from a campervan site to a backpacker bunk or a motel or hotel room. 

QLDC number-crunching contractor Rationale tabled the new report at Tuesday’s strategy committee meeting. 

The stats will be pored over by developers, realtors and even small-fry spec builders. With this year’s census cancelled after the Christchurch quake, Rationale used the 2006 census for baseline data then fed in updates to arrive at five-year bands between now and 2031. 

Does the Wakatipu have enough vacant land on which to build houses and visitor units for all these extra residents and globetrotters? 

Yes, Rationale says, citing QLDC’s “Wakatipu Dwelling Capacity Model”. 

Zoned land could apparently take a total of 31,145 dwellings, three-and-a-half times the present number. 

Some areas can handle more growth than others – Kelvin Heights has spare land for 72 per cent more dwellings while Arrowtown could only cope with 9.5 per cent. 

How accurate will this new growth study be? As the saying goes, don’t bet your house on it.