A proposal to raise height limits near Queenstown’s CBD could trigger the resort’s next development wrangle.
A Queenstown Lakes District Council discussion paper – revealed by Mountain Scene last week – raises the prospect of lifting height limits below Bob’s Peak/Ben Lomond from two storeys to anywhere between three and seven.
QLDC mightn’t admit it but the council has a vested interest because it’s keen to maximise development on its former Man Street motor park.
The QLDC document suggests the old motor park site can absorb buildings as much as seven storeys high.
Aucklander John Upton, part of a consortium QLDC chose to develop the site, confirms its design went up to seven storeys against the hillside.
“There was a mixture of heights,” Upton says.
“We didn’t lose a significant tree, although it was quite large-scale.
“An enormous amount of effort was put into the design to be sympathetic with the look of existing buildings and landscape – although it was fairly high, you couldn’t really see it [from afar].”
Upton’s company, however, wasn’t able to provide the financial covenant required by QLDC so its arrangement lapsed last year.
Now, according to QLDC’s 10-year plan, the council isn’t banking on any financial return from the site for this decade “due to the worsening global economic climate”.
The recession has also put a brake on developer Graham Wilkinson’s plans for a five-storey complex on Brecon St’s outdoor minigolf site. Given continued demands for more people to live in Queenstown, Christchurch-based Wilkinson says the town has two choices:
“You’re going to have to increase density and keep your building boundaries to a reasonable level, or you’re going to have to continue to see large-scale encroachment of rural land.
“In due course, you’re going to have more demand for hotels and you have to say this area up the back [against Ben Lomond/Bob’s Peak] is probably on one of the best spots, and with the least effect on the community.”
Also advocating high-rise development is long-time Queenstown architect Murray Cockburn, who before the 1987 crash drew up plans for a 20-level apartment tower for local developer Jock Boyd on Hamilton Road, where workers’ complex Reavers Lodge now stands.
And again in 2003, Cockburn argued that the sprawling new Greenstone Terraces on Frankton Rd – built to QLDC’s seven-metre height limit – should instead have been a 16-storey high-rise backed into the hillside, with a park-like environment on the rest of the site.
“High-rises are OK so long as they don’t block the view of anybody except the birds and the trees behind them, and don’t shade anybody,” Cockburn maintains.
But other Queenstowners are indignant.
Nigel Brown, who owns an Isle St boutique hotel in an area slated for five-storey development, says high-rise buildings would “completely change the character of the town” unless tucked right against the hills.
Brown argues Queenstown already has a 10-year supply of apartment developments and thousands of vacant sections.
“I think the council’s just come out with this concept ’cos they haven’t had anything to do for the last year so they’re just keeping all the bloody planners employed.”
Lifelong local Jewell Cassells says people she knows have reacted with “surprise and horror”.
Like ratepayer Ali Evers-Swindell: “I am horrified that planners/developers could contemplate such a development in that zone, or in any zone in Queenstown.
“It is seriously appalling in every aspect.
“Have they forgotten what Queenstown is, and what appeals to the tourists that we want to attract?”