Queenstown’s council is proposing a plan change to allow the densest development splurge the resort’s ever seen.
Paperwork for a plan change to extend the Queenstown Town Centre zone, which councillors are considering today, includes artist’s impressions showing high-rises overlooking Queenstown Bay ranging from three to seven storeys tall.
The buildings – shown to maximum allowable height – include a contentious council-proposed $60 million convention centre on its Lakeview site.
CBD landlord Tony Butson says the photomontages drawn by council-commissioned architects are unbelievable.
“The first impression is it’s far too dominant.
“It dwarfs some of the iconic properties being developed in the CBD.”
Butson says it will only compound traffic and parking problems, and suggests high rises in central Queenstown would be more appropriate along Gorge Road.
Nigel Brown, who owns a boutique hotel within the affected area, says: “I think the bulk and heights are far too much and will block light and sun to a high degree.
“I can’t help thinking this will destroy the character of Queenstown – maybe the town does want to become another Benidorm, but I don’t think so.”
Council boss Adam Feeley, however, doesn’t believe the plans are over the top.
“When I looked at this visual, I thought, ‘boy, for what could be a tall building it’s actually massively lost against the far, far larger scale of a Bob’s Peak or a Ben Lomond’.”
He’s supported by council’s urban design consultant Clinton Bird, who believes the potential building bulk “will result in a collective building mass that is appropriately subservient in scale to the Ben Lomond scenic reserve outstanding natural landscape”.
Feeley adds: “I think Queenstown probably needs to consider not where it’s likely to be in the next two or three or even five years but where it will be in 50 years.
“If you look around the world for precedents of good development in mountain resorts, then going up is part of that mix.”
Height limits were chosen to avoid shading of other buildings.
There also won’t be any loss of public spaces – “we will turn it into more usable space”.
Feeley says it’s likely a lot of the predominantly council-owned land covered by the plan change will be developed for residential accommodation.
“If you want to develop good-quality affordable housing at Lakeview or indeed anywhere else in CBD Queenstown or peripheral CBD Queenstown, you’re going to have to increase density and lower costs.
“Part of the mixture, again, is going up.”
Feeley says it’s likely council will choose a developer who’d take out a long-term lease on its land and develop a masterplan including affordable and high-end residential, recreational, hospitality and retail uses.
“It’s a great opportunity to get a very good financial return for the council and, by definition, the ratepayer, and secondly, to be a real catalyst for development in the CBD.”
There’s been an estimate, he says, that council’s return could be $30m – close to the mooted $32m ratepayer contribution required to develop the convention centre.
Feeley says according to expert traffic designers “people are completely overestimating and overstating the traffic issues”.
“This is a site where people will either be coming by coach or taxi from the airport to their hotel or the convention centre, or they’ll be residents and they’ll have limited day-to-day need for their cars”.
Feeley believes increasing the supply of land in the CBD will make it more affordable for businesses, relative to Frankton.
Meanwhile, he concedes that Gorge Rd could also be suitable for high-rise development.
“That’s a legitimate option, I couldn’t disagree with that.”