On the way: Roading/paving off the Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, originally planned for the Waterfall Park hotel, would now also access a proposed retirement village


A Queenstown developer has brought forward his plans for a third Wakatipu retirement village to counter thousands of Covid-19 pandemic-related tourism job losses.

Chris Meehan is proposing his $250 million, 162-residential-unit complex, dubbed Northbrook Retirement Village, including a private hospital, on rural land between Lake Hayes and Arrowtown.

His company, Winton, last year received consent for a 380-room hotel and spa at nearby Waterfall Park.

However, he’s parking that plan due to the hit the tourism industry’s taking.

“The expansion of Queenstown’s aged-care industry is an important diversification away from Queenstown’s traditional tourism base and will positively impact the local economy both financially and socially,” he says.

Meehan calculates there’d be about 200 jobs created during construction of stage one, 926 jobs at peak construction and 100-plus once the village is fully operational.

He’s asking the government to assist in speeding up the consent process.

But he hasn’t requested financial help.

In 2016, Meehan drew up retirement village plans in the same vicinity, but the council refused his request under fast-track ‘special housing area’ rules.

He also failed to get a residential zone approved through the district plan review, which he’s appealed to the Environment Court.

The latest plan’s already drawn flak from Friends of Lake Hayes and neighbour Murray Doyle.

They argue the land should stay rural as it’s an important catchment for Lake Hayes, and therefore the development risks further polluting an already degraded lake (see below).

Meehan, however, says scientific experts believe his village will help improve water quality in Lake Hayes, and its Mill Creek tributary, ‘‘by preventing any future commercial stock farming activities on the land, including related fertiliser application, and extensive revegetation’’.

He’d put in 20,000 to 30,000 more plants, in addition to the 25,000 natives already planted at Waterfall Park and alongside Mill Creek.

He also points out the village only covers six per cent of a 42-hectare site.

Despite the sizeable Queenstown Country Club and Arrowtown retirement villages, Meehan’s in no doubt another one’s viable ‘‘due to the ageing population and current undersupply’’.

‘‘Forecasts expect demand growth over the next decade of about 1000 units from existing retirees and future retirees currently living in the region.’’

Meehan promoted ‘‘general residential development, possibly including a retirement village’’, in his original district plan submission, a letter from his local lawyer, Warwick Goldsmith, states, but decided to focus on retirement village plans, only, about nine months ago.

However, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Meehan’s now asking for an ‘‘urgent’’ Environment Court hearing.

He says he’d start construction as soon he got consent.

The $40m first stage, which would take two years to construct, comprises 30 residential
units, a private 36-bed hospital, with dementia care, and amenities including a clubhouse
recreation building.

‘Keep it rural’

Friends of Lake Hayes spokesman Richard Bowman believes the proposed retirement
village ‘‘carries a lot of risks’’ to the water quality of Mill Creek and Lake Hayes, which it drains.

‘‘It looks like extremely high-density development, and it’s pretty much adjacent to
Mill Creek.’’

He says the potential for phosphorus, nitrates and E-coli to leak into the lake increases during floods.

‘‘You have to ensure all your stormwater, all the wastewater coming out of the development is completely isolated from the creek.’’

His society supports the Queenstown council’s position that the land retain its rural
zoning, limiting subdivision to 80ha.