Almost 10,000 vacant properties in Queenstown
Despite immense pressure for new and affordable homes in Queenstown, thousands of properties are zoned for residential houses and apartments but sitting vacant.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council's capacity model was last updated in March last year and shows 9500 empty, zoned sections in urban Queenstown.
Infact, council planning practice manager Blair Devlin says he can't recall the council ever turning down a substantial residential development
"We can zone the land. It doesn't mean it get's developed."
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He is unsure what the hold up is.
"At what point in the market does it have to reach that people develop it? The zones are there, the demand is there and the prices are there."
About 80 percent of the zoned area is in five ownerships. Jacks Point are being released slowly and neighbouring Henley Downs is under appeal, Shotover Country sections are being released actively and Queenstown Central (at Frankton Flats) has only just got its permits.
However, Remarkables Park with over 2200 sections and Kelvin Heights with 1032 are showing little movement.
Remarkables Park developer Alastair Porter says he is being hampered by a lack of infrastructure while Frank Mee, at Kelvin Heights, says he is struggling to find the right staff to help.
Mayor Vanessa van Uden says the council is responsible for bringing the infrastructure to the sites but to pay for infrastructure within the development would see rate payers subsidising new home owners.
"If you take it on a simplistic basis it does add to the cost of a section but the reality is if the people who are moving to and buying those sections do not contribute to the cost of infrastructure then all the rest of us do.
"We believe it's inequitable to make existing rate payers fund the cost."
The council could not force developers to develop their land but was trying to incentivise some of the bigger land owners through a proposal to rate them on the zoning rather than the rural land.
Porter says the proposal would see rates on Remarkables Park undeveloped land increase $150,000.
"Nobody is going to embark on multi million dollar developments if someone put their rates up by $150,000. It won't speed up development but will send a message to developers outside Queenstown that Queenstown is anti-development."
Housing Minister Nick Smith has expressed concerns the council should be enabling more development and this week stood by his assertions.
"There is a major difference between zoned land and that which can practicably be developed. Queenstown also has an issue of a few major developers controlling much of the potential supply.
"The largest difference in house prices in the Queenstown Lakes District is in section prices. The latest median price from QV is $305,000, the second highest to Auckland ($452,000). This price would not be as high if the council allowed greater competition," he said.
van Uden says she is frustrated when people suggest the council is not doing anything.
"We are actually trying to pursue every option we possibly can to try and get more people in without actually compromising the environment and all of those things that are so important to us as a community."
Several other housing projects are underway including a potential of more than 800 residences in fast-tracked Special Housing Areas, most of which are awaiting approval from Smith.
Also, under the Proposed District Plan another 5000 dwellings are proposed in urban areas.
van Uden says she has not sat down with developers such as Porter and Mee to discuss whether than can overcome any issue.
"Our door is always open...if people come to the discussion with the understanding that we are responsible to the community," she said
Porter says he has regularly invited council to talk.
"Over the years we've probably managed to arrange a briefing session every one or two years. They usually can spare us an hour or two."
"I don't think we should go to council if council wants us to speed up.They need to come and speak to us."
He was hopeful there would be more progress in the near future with new chief executive officer Mike Theelen.
Special Housing Areas
-Bridesdale (approved) 136
-Arrowtown retirement Village (awaiting Minister sign off) 120 villas, 55 apartments and 100 bed care facilities
-Shotover Country (awaiting Minister sign off) 95
-Onslow Rd (awaiting Minister sign off) 20
-Arthurs Point (awaiting Minister sign off) 70
-Queenstown Country Club (subject to council approval before presentation to Minister) 309 units, 18 staff accommodation and 10 units
-Gorge Rd (awaiting Minister sign off) 100-150