Short stay of execution likely for Queenstown cabins

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Queenstown Lakes District Council is considering a short stay of execution for an affordable housing precinct in the resort.

The licences for 169 cabins in the Lakeview site near downtown Queenstown – many occupied by low-income workers and retired people – expire on September 30 next year.

The site is earmarked for a council-led convention centre and other developments including high-rise apartments and a hot pools complex.

Brisbane-based Lynch Block cabin owner Lucy Bell says the cabins – 90 council-owned and 79 privately-owned – provide valuable lower-priced rental accommodation close to the CBD.

She says the council should arrange alternative accommodation, especially given the resort’s tight, high-cost rental market.

“I just think it’s terribly irresponsible if it doesn’t.”

Bell’s also concerned that licence holders, after September 30, have been given only a month to remove their cabins.

She believes this will create a congestion disaster, especially as many cabins are on narrow streets and steep hills.

The council, she says, should have a demolition or removal plan in place, or at least waive licence fees for owners wanting to remove or demolish their cabins sooner.

Responding to Bell’s concerns, council chief executive Adam Feeley says “there may be some fluidity” over the September expiry,  depending on the Lakeview development’s pace.

“It is also likely that the Lynch Block will be developed at a later date, so it is possible that occupiers of these cabins may have an extended date, but it is very unlikely that these will be lengthy extensions.”

Feeley adds: “It is not council’s responsibility to provide alternative accommodation – particularly as we are not the owners of many of the cabins.

“That said, we are talking to a party about whether some or all of the cabins may be moved to an alternative site to be rented.

“We have also factored in high-density residential accommodation as part of the overall master planning at Lakeview.”

Feeley says it’s fair that removal of cabins is the responsibility of licence holders.

“Cabin owners have obtained high rental returns on these cabins which have occupied public land.

“It is entirely reasonable that they meet the costs of removal after having obtained a financial return well in excess of the original cost of the cabins.”