Residents fear paying for 'white elephant'

Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014
queenstown convention centre
An artist's impression in 2013 of a potential Queenstown Convention Centre built at the old Lakeview camping ground site.

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The Queenstown business community is firmly backing a $52 million convention centre in the resort but ratepayers are not as enthusiastic.

Queenstown Lakes District Council residents were asked whether the council should proceed with plans to build on the former Lakeview campground site, as part of the draft annual plan process.

Of the 622 respondents on the convention centre, 59 per cent said the council should proceed with its plans and 41 per cent said it should not.

If the work was to proceed, it would include a rates change across the district, with the Queenstown and Wakatipu commercial ratepayers shouldering the bulk of the cost, followed by Wakatipu residential ratepayers (20 per cent), Wanaka commercial (10 per cent) and Wanaka residential (5 per cent).

This was supported by 52 per cent of respondents. The remainder objected.

Sally Battson of the Wanaka Residents' Association said the 50-year time frame was "fiscally irresponsible". "Who can say whether such a facility would ever break even?

"It is impossible to know how relevant a convention centre will be in 20 years, much less 50 years." There was an argument some businesses in Wanaka would benefit but, she said, it was "almost impossible" to envisage any benefit to Wanaka residents in general.

The Kingston Community Association wrote that the convention centre was originally to be "unique" in New Zealand but now there was talk of new centres in Auckland and Christchurch.

"The KCA committee wants the QLDC to take care with the statistical projection and not create a white elephant that the residents will have to struggle to pay for when QLDC finance for addressing storm water problems and future waste and water systems already seems to be at a premium."

Resident Jef Desbecker said it was hard to believe the council was pursuing a convention centre in the middle of Queenstown.

"We are experiencing more and more traffic congestion at more times of the year and more times of the day. To engage in a large building project which will then become a facility to engage large numbers of people at a single time will only add the already unbelievable congestion in a small mountain town."

He also feared the council was creating a white elephant for ratepayers to subsidise.

"And nowhere in your artist's impressions of the Convention Centre or the Wanaka Sports Facility do I see solar panels. Get with it, it's a no-brainer these days and pays for itself in less than five years."

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