Penalty rates for land bankers


Land bankers could be hit with higher rates in a bid to tackle Queenstown’s accommodation crisis.

Mayor Vanessa van Uden says council’s looking at ways to make it less attractive to delay development on land zoned for homes.

She labels rental and house prices “obscene” - the median house price is now about $800,000.

But king-pin developer Alastair Porter hits back, saying infrastructure needs to come first.

The Remarkables Park boss adds: “They need to work with us, not against us.”

The resort’s a victim of its own success - struggling to cope with a huge influx of new workers and tourists. There’s an acute shortage of both rental properties and affordable housing.

Hundreds of hectares of land in Queenstown are zoned residential, including Remarks Park, and have been for years.

Van Uden says it’s looking at using rates to encourage landowners not to just sit on their residentially zoned land.

“At the moment, the holding costs for the land don’t outweigh the benefit of waiting to get a better price.

“It will be publicly consulted on.”

Porter says council needs to provide proper water pressure, build Frankton’s eastern access road and improve the western access.

“There’s room for 5000 units. I’m constantly working on medium and high-density plans.

“But this is hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of work and [potential partner] developers will ask where’s the infrastructure.”

Porter says council needs to stop opposing developments the public wants, such as Shotover Park.

He hopes ex-council boss Adam Feeley’s replacement Mike Theelen will be more focused on strategic planning.

“I know Mr Feeley said he found working on infrastructure boring, it probably is boring, but that’s what councils need to do – get the infrastructure done.

“Don’t threatens us with things about putting up rates, all that’ll do will lead to more litigation.”

Another big landowner, the Mee family, declined to comment.

The family owns an estimated 100ha of undeveloped land between Kelvin Heights and Deer Park Heights zoned for residential.

Van Uden says the council has worked diligently to tackle growth problems.

There’s no magic switch, she says, but higher density within the district plan is the goal.

“We’re right in the eye of change, of a significant piece of change for us as a country, and that’s hard.”

She says people need to “move over and make room”.

They shouldn’t use the Resource Management Act as a tool just to stop development near them.

“You can’t solve the problem overnight and it’s actually a really fine line,” Van Uden says.

The council has itself proposed a high-rise special housing area (SHA) in some parts of Gorge Road.

And yesterday it approved a private district plan change to allow more than 2100 homes at Hanley Downs, next to Jack’s Point.

As the rental crunch bites, hotel workers and others are sleeping in tents on a vacant piece of land just outside the CBD.

A camp with tents and two mobile homes has been set up next to the construction of the new Ramada Hotel at Remarkables Park.

And bed-sharing with strangers is being offered as a rental option.

For home-buyers, even the fast-tracked SHA process is a relatively slow affair, taking years.