She's all go: The Environment Court's cleared the way for the Grant Mount Earnslaw Hotel to be built in Glenorchy


Glenorchy’s historic Mount Earnslaw Hotel will rise again.

This week, developer Douglas Rickard-Bell’s company, Blackhorn Ltd, was given the  green light by the Environment Court to build the ‘Grand Mount Earnslaw Hotel’.

Construction costs alone will be up to $30 million.

Blackthorn Ltd bought the prime 8097 square metre site at 1 Benmore Place in March, 2019, on which sat the original 23-room hotel.

It opened in 1880 and burned down in 1959 — the site’s been vacant ever since.

Rickard-Bell lodged consent with Queenstown’s council at the end of 2019 to build a 52-bed hotel, with 46 carparks.

While he was given the nod a year ago, that decision was appealed to the Environment Court by Otago Regional Council, which believed there were ‘‘significant risks’’ from natural hazards at the site.

But in a just-released decision, Judge John Hassan’s dismissed that appeal in large part — subject to a host of conditions including those relating to geotech on the site —  paving the way for Rickard-Bell to crack on with the job.

The two-storey building’s set to include a ‘grand room’ in the main hotel, along with five ancillary, commercial-hospitality buildings, primarily focused on food and beverage, a boatshed with more accommodation, and a day spa facility.

Rikard-Bell says all resource consents are now in place, with building consent to come.

‘‘You’d describe it, pretty much, as shovel-ready.

‘‘I’ll lean into it from now and do all the things we need to do to make it happen.’’

He’s expecting construction to start within the next 12 months and take about 18 months to complete.

The finished product will also tell the story of the original hotel, whose first proprietor was mountaineer Henry Birley.

Birley laid claim to being the first man to reach the summit of Mt Earnslaw in the 1890s, leaving a bent penny in an old Irish Moss bottle at the top of the 2835m mountain to prove he made it.

A few years later another guy walked into the bar, holding the jar with the bent penny which he retrieved on his own mission, proving Birley made it first.

The jar sat behind the bar for years, till the hotel was razed and the penny lost — Rickard-Bell won’t be drawn on whether or not that element might be a feature in
the Grand Mount Earnslaw, though.