‘Queenstown, pop brave pills and build centre’

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One of Queenstown tourism’s leading lights urges the resort to pop some “brave pills” and build a convention centre.
 
Former long-serving Shotover Jet boss Jim Boult – now the Christchurch Airport chief executive – made the call at today’s opening American Express Winter Festival event the Gen-I Business Luncheon saying he didn’t care where it was put. 

Boult cited the drama and arguments ahead of the decision by Dunedin to build its $200 million roofed stadium which he says the city was now benefiting from via increased business. 

“I don’t much care where in Queenstown a convention centre is built – though I’d still like to see something fine done with that great site on Stanley Street. 

“Queenstown needs to take some brave pills, look to the future and get it built.” 

Boult’s comments come as Queenstown mayor Vanessa Van Uden confirms public consultation will begin in early August on a proposed centre. 

“There is huge interest in the convention centre and already a lot of debate. It’s important that council informs that debate by making all of the relevant information available.”

Van Uden says no agreement has been reached with the consortium selected as the preferred party for negotiation, but council was reaching a position where it could make relevant information available. 

“The community has to be able to make informed comment about the merits or otherwise of a convention centre and how it might be developed and operated.”

Van Uden says there’ll be no secret deals. 

“We’re still some way from any firm agreement with the consortium, but whatever is proposed will, as I have previously stated, be fully disclosed to the public, inclusive of potential options.” 

Back in February, Queenstown Lakes District Council announced it had accepted its evaluation panel’s recommendation to enter negotiations with a consortium led by Ngai Tahu Property and public-private infrastructure giant Morrison & Co.

Other heavy-hitters are involved including global design company Populous which has been behind major international projects like London’s O2 Arena, Yankee Stadium in New York and – closer to home – the covered Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin and Eden Park’s Rugby World Cup redevelopment.

Queenstown construction company Naylor Love is also on board along with award-winning Kiwi architecture firm Fearon Hay and project management company RCP. 

Casino giant SkyCity Entertainment Group is the preferred operator, and the preferred site is council-owned Lakeview Holiday Park land at the top of Man Street, although other sites remain possibilities including land on Stanley Street and Gorge Road. 

Mayor van Uden says at the heart of the project is the question of cost to the public versus private investment. 

“We cannot expect the private sector to invest in the convention centre unless there is a viable business case. Equally, the scale of any public investment needs to be balanced with the economic return to the District,” she says. 

Queenstown council chief executive Adam Feeley says matters remain on track. 

“Negotiations are never a public process but I have been satisfied that good progress is being made.
 
“We have commissioned an impact assessment on the convention centre itself, as well as an economic analysis of the wider District impact of this project, both of which support the economic case for a convention centre.” 

Considerable work had also been done on the consenting issues and application process; analysing site options; and forecasting likely revenue and expenditure from the venue – all of which would form part of the information disclosed in the public consultation, he says. 

“People understandably wanted a quick solution, but this was a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to develop a major piece of tourism infrastructure. Such projects are complicated and if they are to succeed they need to be well-planned and have widespread public buy-in.”