The sport of kings is swinging into Queenstown.
There are six polo clubs already in the South Island, but none in Queenstown.
But that’s all about to change.
Commissioner Bob Nixon has granted conditional consent for a polo club, subdivision and residential building platforms on a 85ha site in Malaghans Rd, about 5km west of Arrowtown.
Behind the million-dollar venture are Jonathan Gabler and his partner Lynley Fong, of TJ Investments Pte Ltd and Ta Property Trust Ltd. Gabler’s originally from Australia, but lives in Singapore with Fong and the couple’s two children.
The consent allows for a maximum of seven tournaments in any calendar year – and no more than two a month.
Planning documents reveal tournaments will be timed to coincide with other major events, for example the Queenstown Marathon and New Zealand Golf Open to provide greater exposure for the sport.
During tournaments, which typically last seven days, between 200 and 300 people would be on site, including players, support staff and spectators.
The main polo season runs from October until the end of April – between May and September the club would largely be shut down.
Polo is a team sport played on horseback, with players scoring goals by driving a small, white plastic ball into an opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.
A game lasts about two hours, divided into periods called “chukkas”.
Nixon’s decision follows a resource consent hearing in Queenstown in September, at which the impact on the landscape was the key issues raised.
The polo facility needs further subdivision of the existing land.
While the proposal contains a “significant cluster” of buildings and fencing – associated with stables, a clubhouse and a barn, the decision said that development would have “relatively limited and fleeting visibility” from Coronet Peak Rd.
The decision says: “We are also mindful of the fact that despite widespread notification there have been no submissions opposing the development.”
Positive benefits of the proposal are “at least a modest benefit for tourists and recreational activities in the district through providing an activity that is not currently represented or provided for”.
At the hearing, Gabler says the million-dollar venture would provide ongoing and wide-ranging benefits to the resort.
That includes attracting overseas players to what he believes will be “the southernmost polo facility in the world”, and providing benefits to other businesses.
It will also create jobs, requiring at least a full-time property/operations/polo manager; a seasonal polo professional for about 30 weeks a year; and a seasonal polo groom also required about 30 weeks a year.
Nixon was the proposal will make ”arguably more efficient” use of the site.
Under the conditions, the polo field, stage one of the stables, three arenas and structural landscaping, along with post and rail fencing, must be completed before construction of the clubhouse can begin.
Otago Daily Times