Queenstown council boss: Porter’s private centre plan is laughable

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Queenstown’s council boss has described an 11th-hour unveiling of plans for a privately-funded convention centre at Remarkables Park as “laughable” and smacking of “grandstanding”.
 
“It’s laughable,” Feeley said when asked for a reaction to Remarkables Park co-director Alastair Porter’s statement this afternoon that his company planned to proceed with a centre at Frankton backed by private equity. 

“If Alastair had serious investors willing to both construct and operate a convention centre, why would he pick 12 hours before a council meeting to give us the heads up?” Feeley tells scene.co.nz. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council meets tomorrow for a D-day convention centre meeting to kiss or kill a proposed $50 million project on council-owned Lakeview up Man Street near downtown Queenstown.

Feeley: “Six to eight months ago [Porter] presented a proposal which was turned down because it was the wrong location according to every bit of advice we could get and secondly, to be viable it required virtually 100 per cent public funding. And council wasn’t going to destroy the heart of Queenstown’s CBD for a centre that was in the wrong location. 

“If Alastair has managed to find 100 per cent backing for a privately funded convention centre than he’s achieved – excuse the pun – a remarkable achievement which no other location in Australasia has achieved.

 

“Even the big ones in Australia receive public funding because they cannot deliver a return on capital required to build them. You can usually deliver an operating surplus – but that doesn’t satisfy private investors. 

“The reason [convention centres] receive public funding is because of the disproportionately large benefit to the community in which they are located. If Alastair’s achieved the hitherto unachievable, then why not have the discussion – our door is always open. 

“If he does have a genuine proposal then I can’t speak for councillors – they might seriously consider it – but that would be quite different to firing out a media statement at the 11th hour. That smacks to me of a grandstanding. 

“There are people who are going to pick up the paper tomorrow or read your website and think why are we going to spend ratepayer money when Father Christmas is presenting us with a convention centre. Well, I’ve got news for them – Father Christmas doesn’t exist.”