Swap paves way for swanky subdivision


A council land swap of reserve land on scenic Queenstown Hill might pave the way for a lucrative housing development.

It took Queenstown’s council and the Department of Conservation (Doc) 13 years to strike a deal to exchange a six-hectare council-owned site above the Commonage Villas, on Kerry Drive, for nine hectares of Crown land above Vancouver Drive.

Council contractor APL Property has applied for consent to slice a nine hectare section off 70ha of wilding pine-infested Crown land zoned as recreation reserve.

The nine-hectare piece – most of which is zoned high density residential – will be reclassified from reserve to freehold, paving the way for residential development.

In a decision released today, council’s senior planner Hanna Afifi granted the non-complying activity consent without public notification.

If a subdivision proceeds, it will be the 11th and final stage of the council’s lucrative Commonage development.

The 1976 gift of 100 acres – about 40ha – of Crown land has been developed and sold over the years to fund district water and sewerage schemes.

Today’s consent decision flags the possibility of a high-density residential subdivision being built on land previously protected by reserve status.

But it sidesteps the issue, stating: “As no built development is proposed as part of this application, any adverse effects on character, amenity, density, views and outlook will be no more than minor”.

The decision says access will be provided to electricity network company Aurora Energy’s substation and a council reservoir. 

APL director Joanne Conroy told the Mountain Scene in 2013 she had been negotiating the land swap with Doc since 2002, with the chief sticking point being disagreement over the two site’s relative values.

Conroy was not available for immediate comment, but Doc statutory land management adviser Ken Stewart told the Otago Daily Times there were “good reasons” for the protracted negotiations.

Issues such as comparative land values, land areas and final boundaries had needed to be resolved, and the council had moved with more or less haste on the project at different times.

“It was just one of those things which took time – I don’t think you can blame any party.”

Although the recreation reserve was owned by the Crown, the land swap was effectively a council transaction, with Doc’s input limited to a “process role” on the Crown’s behalf.

“We didn’t drive the process, and we were neutral about the process, if you like.”

The land received by the Crown in the swap would be vested in the council to manage as a recreation reserve, he says.

Otago Daily Times