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CBD landlord OK with rates rise but not if it funds rivals

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014

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One of Queenstown's biggest CBD landlords can cope with rates increases to fund the resort's council-backed $55 million convention centre but doesn't want to fund "competition".

On Monday, the Queenstown Lakes District Council announced its preferred method of raising its $39.9m stake required for the convention centre would be through a rates increase for CBD landlords.

This would lighten the burden on the average residential ratepayer and shift the bulk of that burden to the CBD businesses that would benefit the most from a convention centre, which is slated for a site fringing the downtown area.

Westwood Group director Tony Butson told The Southland Times yesterday that he was very supportive of a convention centre, but as a ratepayer whose company would likely be contributing a large chunk to the funding of the centre that support did have a cut-off point.

"We support a convention centre, even though that would be at quite a cost, but I wouldn't like to see the businesses that would be paying the increased rates to fund it paying for competition," he said.

"What we wouldn't want to see is those rates funding cafes, restaurants and retail around a convention centre at the Lakeview site."

The Westwood Group is a major player in Queenstown's top-dollar CBD real estate scene and holds a multimillion-dollar portfolio which includes prestige properties such as Queenstown's lakeside Steamer Wharf, The Mountaineer building, Shotover St's Outside Sports building and The Junction, which houses the Mediterranean Market.

Under the council's favoured ratings scenario, CBD landlords - 2.5 per cent of ratepayers - would face increases of between 15 and 26 per cent.

Figures show that a "high-value" CBD commercial property paying a $100,529 rates bill in the 2013-14 year would face a hike of $26,181 under a 26 per cent increase.

Under a 14.7 per cent increase on a "high-value" CBD accommodation property paying a $258,881 annual rates bill, the increase would be $38,018.

Conversely, 85 per cent of ratepayers - an average residential property owner - would face an increase of up to 3 per cent - $10 to $130 a year.

The council will adopt the preferred ratings model and other recommendations at a meeting in Wanaka tomorrow.

It will outline in detail the proposed convention centre figures in its Draft Annual Plan, which will go out for public consultation in mid-April seeking "the community's views on whether to proceed with the project".

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- The Southland Times

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