Domestic product: An artist's impression of the planned 'Grant Mount Earnslaw Hotel'


A Glenorchy┬ádeveloper’s forging ahead with plans to resurrect the town’s same site as the original Mount Earnslaw Hotel once stood.

Douglas Rikard-Bell applied for consent late last year after his company, Blackthorn Ltd, bought the vacant 8079 square metre site last March.

Consent was lodged at the end of last year for the two-storey hotel to sit on about 17 per cent of the site, with 55 keyable rooms, including some “attic rooms” in the main development.

Also planned are other “boathouse rooms”, with interconnecting doors, on Islay Street.

Of 83 submissions received by City Hall on the proposal, the overwhelming majority – 69 – are opposed, including Otago Regional Council on grounds the “significant risks” from natural hazards at the site haven’t been thoroughly identified, nor assessed.

But Rikard-Bell says he hadn’t consulted directly with ORC before lodging consent, and he’s confident he’ll be able to address any concerns it has.

Further, he says he’s thrilled at the number of people who submitted, even if they’re not in favour of the plan.

“It’s right that it attracts so much interest in this little community and, of course, there will be there – and there will always be – fervent conjecture.

“We’re very happy with the submissions – we weren’t expecting as many … positive ones in particular.

“We didn’t ask for a single supportive submission, so those were all unsolicited.

“We were pretty humbled by those.”

Those against the proposal didn’t speak for everyone, but they played a “terribly important part all the same”.

“Some of the points raised in some of the objections I thought were very, very good.

“I had nobody ask me to address them … I just wanted to.”

He’s not keen to talk about how the proposal’s changed since lodging consent as a result of the submissions, preferring for the application to run its course – a hearing was delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown and he’s now expecting that to happen this spring.

But, despite the challenging economic times, he’s still confident the hotel will rise from the ground again.

“I sort of feel here that if I was trying to bank the project immediately, today, it would probably be a little bit challenging [but] we’ve got a little way to go to get consent.

“I feel that the domestic tourism market is going to evolve in a good way, particularly if projects like this can be built and procured.

“We like the idea of creating local employment and still believe that Glenorchy can stand a little more independently as a great place to holiday within New Zealand.

“Projects like this, while I understand the importance of the international tourism industry, we’ve never thought about [targeting] a foreign market.

“It’s always been, in our minds, a domestic product.

“It’s probable we could be building through an environment that might be a little less expensive.”