$60m plan moves forward

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2014

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Queenstown's $90 million convention centre war has taken another step forward, with the resort's district council voting to progress work on its $60m proposal.

The council's proposal for a world-class, largely ratepayer-funded convention centre on a prime site near the CBD and overlooking Lake Wakatipu has had its limelight sideswiped by a proposal for a privately funded $30m convention centre in Frankton's Remarkables Park.

With debate and discussion ramping into a tit-for-tat scenario over each proposal's merits, the agenda for yesterday's Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting was dominated by a vote on whether to secure capital funding over and above the $32.5m proposed council contribution, amending its long-term plan to withstand those costs and approve scoping work and reporting for a plan change that could expand the boundaries of Queenstown's CBD zone to include the convention centre site.

A councillor vote of three against and six in favour of the recommendation to proceed meant moves would continue.

Councillor Cath Gilmour said she objected because she did not believe a convention centre could sustain itself "beyond reasonable doubt".

"I can see many positives, but what could turn into $100m in ratepayer costs and risks is too much to balance," she said.

The council had dismissed the impact convention centres in main cities could have on the long-term viability of a Queenstown convention centre, and a small rise in interest rates could see debt repayments skyrocket, she said.

Councillors Calum MacLeod and Ella Lawton also objected.

Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden countered, saying that elected members were voted in to lead, and this meant hard decisions had to be made, as well easy ones.

"Risky decisions have to made, and we are mindful of feedback and always have been ... This is not a race about who will have the best convention centre, but what is best for the Queenstown Lakes District. The district deserves a convention centre commensurate with visitors and residents expectations, and we need to protect out CBD and ask if a neighbourhood shopping centre is the best place for visitors to have conventions."

However, Remarkables Park developer and driving force behind the privately funded convention centre, Alistair Porter rebutted through a press release, saying the decision followed inaccurate, out-of-date and misleading information being presented to councillors prior to the vote.

Earlier, while speaking in the public forum section of the meeting, he detailed his objections.

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"The quantity survey data is two years old. The community deserves better plans which need to be peer reviewed. There has been a standing offer to inspect in detail our proposal. We have released that information [to council chief executive officer Adam Feeley], but he has declined to take up that offer."

A resource consent application for the Remarkables Park convention centre was filed with the council last week.

- The Southland Times

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