Pool could help bankroll convention centre

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 13:52 17/12/2013

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A $25 million Ngai Tahu-funded hot pool complex, as well as another mystery "anchor tenant", could be the big breadwinners for Queenstown's proposed convention centre - leaving ratepayers largely out of the $50m cost equation.

The biggest agenda item on Queenstown Lakes District Council's last meeting of the year, to be held on Thursday, is whether to approve a council-private sector development agreement.

The value, uninterrupted lake and mountain views, and accessibility from the proposed Man St site to Queenstown's central business district are all bargaining chips being played by the council that have already attracted strategic proposals from the SkyCity casino group, Ngai Tahu and the other tenant who remains unnamed - and is blacked-out in all council literature.

Public meetings on the convention centre have drawn lots of support, but also loud criticism over a perception the council would be overcommitting ratepayer cash. Former Queenstown mayor and foreign affairs minister Warren Cooper has been particularly vocal, with opposition not only to the $50m setup costs, but also the continuing cost of keeping it running, which was echoed by many in the business community.

However, the private sector's crucial role in the setup and ongoing cost-sharing of the convention centre, through taking up tenancies on adjacent land, was underlined in the agenda's executive summary. "The private sector is expected to play a key part in development of the balance land and potentially the convention centre . . . possible operating structures . . . minimise commercial risk to the council, while ensuring a strong commercial return from the balance land in order to offset council's contribution to the convention centre over time."

While little is known of the other major possible tenant, a perhaps strategically missed part of the blackout on the agenda says the mystery tenant would "deliver an additional $10-30m to reduce the cost of the convention centre over time within a relatively low- risk framework".

Ngai Tahu Tourism southern regional general manager David Kennedy said the proposed development would include about 12 large public hot pools, four smaller private hot pools, a health spa, reception and retail building, plus a cafe and restaurant area - and that hot pools were already part of the South Island iwi's large and varied portfolio.

"Ngai Tahu Tourism has proven expertise to realise a high-quality development such as the proposed Queenstown Hot Pools, as seen with our multimillion-dollar Glacier Hot Pools at Franz Josef, which opened in 2008."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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