Queenstown council delays convention centre D-day

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A MAJOR hotel chain’s late Queenstown convention centre bid is among a feedback avalanche prompting council to delay final decisions.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) – which runs Australia’s National Convention Centre and has more than 4600 hotels worldwide – confirms it’ll evaluate the potential of operating a centre.

Its 11th-hour offer is among a whopping 748 public submissions to Queenstown Lakes District Council on the proposed $50 million project.

The amount of feedback has seen council delay a D-day meeting for final decisions – it was to be this coming Tuesday but is now September 17.

Council boss Adam Feeley, confirming the delay, says public interest has been significant and genuine issues need clarified.

“That in mind, it’s likely council will take a little extra time to ensure these matters have been dealt with. We’ve therefore rescheduled.”

The late offer by IHG – with nine global brands including Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn – is conditional on a site at the corner of Man Street and Hay St. That’s behind James Clouston Memorial Reserve in the motor park, near council’s preferred Lakeview site.

IHG Queenstown and Carter Queenstown together own Crowne Plaza Queenstown (CPQ) hotel on Lake Esplanade.

Spokesman and Queenstown planning consultant John Edmonds (pictured above) – one of 30 submitters to address councillors on Tuesday – said: “CPQ supports the council’s plans for a convention centre although we strongly recommend locating it on the motor park land. It is a more logical part of any sequential commercial expansion to the CBD.

“Yes, there is a reserve classification, however in the greater scheme of things that can be folded into the bundle of issues that’ll need to be addressed.”

The 26,000sq m of land is designated recreation reserve and is directly behind the CPQ hotel.

The council has chosen Lakeview as its preferred site ahead of downtown options Gorge Road and Stanley Street, both considered too small.

Edmonds confirms CPQ’s owners didn’t submit a plan to council when it asked for proposals a year ago – but council’s Feeley says yesterday: “As far as location is concerned this proposal could reasonably be considered as part of the wider Lakeview development.
 
Queenstown council’s announced in February a preferred consortium to develop and run a 750-person capacity centre with potential for a wider entertainment and residential precinct. The consortium is led by Ngai Tahu Property and Morrison & Co, with casino giant SkyCity Entertainment Group as operator.

Bennett + Todd Architecture dusted off their unsuccessful proposal pitched to council last year – bringing to the hearing designs for a ‘green building’ centre on Gorge Road bordering the Recreation Ground.

The proposal was supposedly bound by a confidentiality agreement with council but Gary Todd presented it at Tuesday’s hearing – pinning an artist’s impression to the wall.

A submission by Todd’s business partner Murray Bennett encourages all Queenstown councillors to view their submission.

“I strongly encourage QLDC to make public the Gorge Road submission [and] confidentiality clauses be temporarily removed to allow our team to discuss with councillors the merits.”

Also at the hearing, the business community strongly made their case for a centre, which is projected to create 466 fulltime jobs and add $22m-$36m to regional Gross Domestic Product.

Destination Queenstown’s Graeme Budd says anecdotally DQ turned away inquiries for 40 large conferences for 400-800 delegates in the past year alone.

Conference and event organisers Alistair McIIwrick of Dinamics and geneticist Mac Gardner emphasised their desire for a centre.

McIlwick, who organises an annual 850-delegate conference, and Gardner – who brought 300 Australian genetics delegates recently – both warned council against including a casino, saying it could deter conference sponsors.