PM throws developer a bone


Prime Minister John Key hints Queenstown developer Remarkables Park might be able to tap government funding for its proposed convention centre.

In the past, he’s suggested the government could contribute up to $10 million towards the council’s planned convention centre on the old Lakeview site in central Queenstown.

Council’s plans are stalled, however, while Remarkables Park last month lodged a resource consent application for a $25m-plus, 600-delegate centre at Frankton that’s expected to open in 2018.

In a one-on-one interview with Mountain Scene last Friday, Key says: “Queenstown needs, in our view, a convention centre ‘cos it’s partly about smoothing out the peaks and troughs that you have in your tourism flows.

“If the council couldn’t get there on its convention centre, then there’s no particular reason why a private developer couldn’t come to the government for support.”

Asked about funding the likes of light rail or subsidised public transport to reduced the resort’s traffic congestion, Key suggests the government’s tourism infrastructure fund could be tapped.

He adds, however, that NZ Transport Agency is “increasingly being focused on the issues in Queenstown”.

His transport minister Simon Bridges is also, he says, “acutely aware of what needs to happen”.

Key was also asked his view on local jeweller and golf course owner Sir Michael Hill’s fear - expressed at the opening of this year’s NZ Open gof tournament - that the area’s getting too many non-quality tourists.

“I think the question we all have to ask ourselves is, what does success look like, and the answer is, arguably, more tourists, but also ones that spend money and contribute to the development of Queenstown and underpin jobs.”

The government, Key says, is very focused not just on tourist numbers, but on how much they spend and what value they add.

“Michael Hill’s got a correct point that if you just focused on volume you run the risk of losing sight of what you’re really trying to achieve, which is a nice balance between employment and not having the whole place over-run with low-value tourists.”