Queenstown faithful tested


Property-buying plans are dividing a long-established Queenstown church.

The asset-rich local Presbyterian Church congregation gave its blessing last Friday to spending $1.3 million buying rural land on the rapidly-developing Frankton Flats.

Other than a new church on the site, it might also build community housing.

The land buy still needs approval from two higher authorities - but already there’s grumbling in the pews.

Rex McDonald, a parishioner for 17 years, has spoken out against the purchase.

“I don’t think we’ve got a congregation big enough,” he tells Mountain Scene.

“The town is growing but we’re not getting more bums on seats.”

He adds: “We work our butts off at the church fair to try to balance the books.”

Clarice May, a parishioner for 37 years, is also sceptical: “I really think it is very ambitious because I don’t know where they’re going to get all the people from.”

The church wants to build a new church and other amenities on a 2.9 hectare site by the new Glenda Drive roundabout.

Wakatipu Community Presbyterian Church minister Ian Guy says: “The town is growing rapidly and like any other group we basically need to keep up with that.”

The purchase still needs approval from the Southern Presbytery and the Otago-Southland synod.

Asked if the plan is to sell St Margaret’s Church - the parish’s existing Frankton church, across Kawarau Road from the airport runway - Guy says: “We’d be looking at relocating some of our activities but we haven’t made any firm decisions about that.”

Guy says buying the land before consent approval is “fairly low-risk” and it has time on its side.

According to explanatory notes for Friday’s meeting, the new site would house the parish’s main worship centre.

Right now that’s central Queenstown’s St Andrew’s Church, which will be redeveloped later.

Frankton’s St Margaret’s Church would be sold because its worship space is “barely adequate” and it’s beneath the main runway’s flight path.

The new facility would include a 300-seat worship auditorium, with capacity to expand to an adjoining area, a smaller chapel, teaching and meeting rooms, gymnasium and drop-in centre.

“We envisage housing for ministry personnel and additional housing and units to provide housing for the community and maybe a long-term income stream. In time we see room for an accommodation block for visiting groups and for discipleship students coming for study.”

The notes reveal the synod has already granted $400,000 towards the land purchase.

In addition, the parish has been promised two interest-free loans totalling $500,000, for a period of six years, and a gift totalling $200,000.

After the parish pays a $50,000 deposit, it would then need to raise another $207,000.

The document declares the parish asset-rich.

It owns three church properties and two manses to house ministry staff. The manse in Douglas Street, Frankton, is conservatively valued at $1m and St Margaret’s Church $1.5m.

“Also the value of the land we are purchasing at rural valuation is expected to be rezoned residential within a year or two and the value will increase substantially.”