A major Queenstown developer has raised the spectre of legal action over moves to hike rates on ‘land bankers’.
Remarkables Park Ltd, owned by Porter Group, claims Queenstown’s council will be acting outside its powers if it attempts to encourage development by raising rates on undeveloped land zoned for homes.
Mayor Vanessa van Uden told Mountain Scene back in February it was a way to tackle the resort’s housing crisis.
But Porter Group, no stranger to court battles with the council, outlines its opposition to the move in RPL’s annual plan submission.
It says the Local Government Act doesn’t provide for rates to be used as a means to hasten the development of zoned land.
“Such an approach will inevitably lead to more ill-will as costly litigation will inevitably challenge whether it is ultra vires [beyond council power] for council to charge rates for this purpose,” it reads.
That will “provide an interesting and profitable legal debate for lawyers”.
But it will only serve to “further damage” Queenstown’s reputation as an attractive place for developers, it states.
Both RPL and Hanley Downs developer Melbourne-based RCL Queenstown Ltd have made independent submissions on the issue.
They highlight the differences between ‘land bankers’, who sit on land for profit, and master-plan developers, who “sensibly” take a long-term approach.
They outline the practical reasons why developments are staged, including the realities of infrastructure provision, approval times, stage-by-stage finance to avoid risk of large capital outlays, market absorption, and other factors.
Porter Group head honcho Alastair Porter says: “As a company, we’ve never stopped developing in this town.
“Right through the global financial crisis, we were developing land at Remarkables Park and/or Shotover Park [Glenda Drive].
“They’re big developments, they’re masterplan developments, they’re not meant to be developed and sold in one day because that would make for a very poor-quality development.”
RPL assesses “punitive” rates on the undeveloped land would increase its rates by 83 per cent under the proposal but gives no total figure.
But Porter won’t confirm it will take legal action.
“I’m at the point now where I’m waiting to see what council’s decision is.
“I’m an optimist and believe council will realise it’s not going to help.
“We want to work with council not constantly be talking to each other through lawyers.”
The council declined to comment during the annual plan process.