Lodge plans major development

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 11:55 28/05/2014
glen christiansen
JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN/ Fairfax NZ

REVOLUTIONARY: General Manager Glen Christiansen says it is an exciting time for Golden Gate Lodge.

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A Cromwell businessman is promising "revolutionary" changes to the town if a proposed development goes ahead.

Alistair Stark, a director of Golden Gate Lodge, has unveiled development plans for the business which includes an information centre within the complex, as well as a separate development on vacant adjacent land overlooking the golf course.

"It would be quite revolutionary for Cromwell. It's something that's not currently operating in town ... if it does eventuate it will have a significant impact on how we do activities from there."

The Golden Gate concept plans show a proposed subdivision, overlooking the golf course, including potentially a future swimming pool/spa, and feature pond.

Stark would not reveal any more details about the project because the developers were not ready to go public, he said.

The information centre would be developed in opposition to the Central Otago District Council's i-SITE, which is to be relocated to a leased building on the periphery of the mall.

Originally, the council had planned to construct a $1.6 million purpose-built visitor's centre beside the Big Fruit. However, in January the council announced it was scrapping its plans in favour of relocating the visitor's centre to a leased space because of declining number of visitors to i-SITEs and escalating building costs.

Stark said the directors had talked with the council about providing it a site within the Golden Gate so the existing i-SITE would work in with the Golden Gate's existing businesses.

The council had indicated it could provide a better service to the community. However, the directors held a different view, he said.

"We were all for having the i-SITE alongside the Big Fruit, which like it or not has iconic status, but then when council delayed the decision, that's when we decided to take the initiative by offering to build an i-SITE on land at the Golden Gate Lodge.

"As long-time investors in Cromwell we could only see benefits for ratepayers and travellers."

The location was high profile, rent would have been a favourable rate, their staff could have manned the information centre after hours to give an improved level of service to travellers, and there was plenty of easily accessible parking for tour buses, motor homes, vehicles towing trailers and cars, he said.

"Other than being told we would have to get retail land use approval, the response to this proposal was met with silence."

The Golden Gate's information centre would operate seven days a week, he said.

An independent information centre still made economic sense despite the council pushing ahead with plans to relocate its i-SITE to the Murray Tce site - a location away from the highway, and one that already has traffic and parking issues, he said.

"As much as we question this decision, the business model for an independent tourist information centre at the Golden Gate Lodge still makes economic sense. It's highly visible and easily accessible, and in terms of fairness to other accommodation providers, it must be remembered Golden Gate's hotel-style suites are not for everyone, especially families."

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Rather than just a coffee-corner, centre visitors had a full cafe, restaurant, pizzeria and bar, and the hours would be from 6am until about 11pm.

"We already book tours at the Golden Gate reception so it's not exactly a quantum leap for us to extend our tourist services."

Stark said work on the information centre and other developments on the 4-hectare site had already commenced.

General manager Glen Christiansen said it was an "exciting time" for the lodge.

"We are happy with where we are at - we sit nicely but we can offer more and it's time to look forward."

The council had turned down an opportunity to share staff and offer increased hours without costing the ratepayer, he said.

"We thought there was a good synergy between the two. The more we have looked into it, the more we still believe there is an opportunity to go on our own. We believe this is an area we can go forward."

Concept plans drawn up for the development included modernising the indoor and outdoor dining spaces, creating a family area, creating a new entrance and opening it up to the street frontage.

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