Convention centre design a 'starting point'

22:48, Aug 21 2014

Construction of a convention centre in Queenstown could start by 2016 but event experts say the architectural design needs "next generation" work.

Queenstown Lakes District Council and panelists presented an architectural update on options for the long-mooted convention centre at a public forum on Tuesday.

Architects Populous envisage a two-storey, split level centre with a 750-delegate plenary conference room, multi-use meeting and exhibition space and a 750-person dining venue. The options for the interior included a three-space reconfigurable area or a continuous space incorporating moveable walls.

Queenstown-based event management director Simon Green yesterday said the design update was a starting point but his preference was a single space that could be subdivided, as opposed to a three-room space.

Production capability and technical staging considerations needed to be built in to the design from the start, he said.

"Everything that's there is fantastic, it maybe needs to be rejigged a little bit. As opposed to three spaces in one, one space would be a more economic option. If it's designed right we get big groups with big budgets, they want the next generation of events. You want a blank canvas, one big box. They've designed it so the options are a little bit limited.


"It's trying to find a balance between the multi-use functionality versus the beauty and position of the site. Nobody is questioning where it is."

Tourism Industry Association regional hotels representative Penny Clark, at the forum, said the brief to design a centre for 700-800 delegates was based on affordability.

Queenstown Airport was expanding but its existing capability meant a convention centre concept was pitched at a maximum of 1200 people. It was important to incorporate resource consent into the design to enable easy expansion in the future, Clark said.

"Anything bigger than that [1200] many people could not get here. It won't take overnight but we don't want to be stymied because we have to get consent to expand."

Tom Lynch, who runs audiovisual and events firm TomTom Productions, and Shipleys Audiovisual technicians met council representatives and Populous architects Chris Paterson and James Pearce yesterday.

Lynch said the firms and council opened a discussion on the requirements of a convention centre for the Queenstown market. Some of the design options unveiled at the forum were not big enough to cater for national and international conferences that wanted an "X factor" space, he said.

"My preference is to see a properly multi-purpose space. It can be one room but it doesn't need to be. My preference is that it's one space."

On the flipside, Remarkables Park developer Alastair Porter has unveiled plans for a rival centre in Frankton.

In a statement, he said the council project was still in the early design stages. Optional extras could cost millions of dollars more than the estimated cost.

"The proposal for a 250 vehicle parking building we estimate to be an additional cost of $16 million. So, together with ‘optional extras' the build cost is now over $70m. Add in the value of the site in excess of $10m and future interest costs and this package, even at this stage, already looks to be well in excess of $120m."

Porter said the potential cost could be enormous, aspects of the proposal were unrealistic and there were major traffic considerations to resolve.

The council is looking to fund $32.5m of the total cost and needs to make up the shortfall. Another forum will be held later this year to discuss funding options.

The Southland Times