Education hub rubbed out

Changing landscape: Hanley's Farm, viewed from Jack's Point

A huge education and technology campus planned near Queenstown’s Jack’s Point is dead in the water.

Just as council experts were lining up to rail against the plan, its main supporter, the Jacks Point group of companies associated with developer John Darby, has quietly dropped it.

In a December 15 note, Jacks Point lawyer Maree Baker-Galloway says after consultation with landowners, residents and Queenstown’s council it now wants a mixed residential and education area for the 13.2 hectare site, near Woolshed Road.

An innovation and education hub, sprawling over the northern tip of the fast-growing Queenstown suburb, was originally tacked on to the housing development now known as Hanley’s Farm.

But the planning commission, which recommended Hanley’s Farm be approved, was against the hub.

In a report written last month, council planning consultant Vicki Jones says the proposed education precinct “poses a significant threat to both the viability and vibrancy of the Jack’s Point and Homestead Bay villages and undermines the importance” of nearby commercial centres, like Frankton and central Queenstown.

If it went through as planned, an array of commercial development and accommodation could be built on the site.

Jones – who describes the draft height allowances and building site coverage as “generous” – would rather see education activities next to or within the Jack’s Point village area.

Christchurch urban designer David Compton-Moen says inappropriately lax rules in the mooted hub would have allowed five-storey, bulky buildings – which would have made it more akin to a light industrial area.

Economics ace Tim Heath, of Auckland company Property Economics, says in his report he has “significant concerns” over the “loose rules” in the education zone, with no maximum floor area for retail shops.

He says if you add together the planned Jack’s Point’s main village area and the education hub – none of which cap total retail space – it’s “nearly twice the land area of the Queenstown Town Centre”.

That “clearly illustrates the extent of the retail potential within Jack’s Point”, he says.

However, landscape expert Marion Read is more mellow on the idea. She says the education campus would be “somewhat surprising” to motorists from the highway, but would “not detract significantly”.

Reports from Jones and others are with commissioners hearing submissions on Queens-town council’s proposed district plan, which is a blueprint for future development.

Experts reckon Jack’s Point, taking in Hanley’s Farm, could be home to up to 10,000 people when fully developed – probably big enough to support a supermarket.