Glenorchy rift 'ripping the town apart'

TOWN RIFT: Debbi and Paul Brainerd in the new Glenorchy General Store
John Edens

TOWN RIFT: Debbi and Paul Brainerd in the new Glenorchy General Store

A rift is developing between locals and wealthy American philanthropists in Glenorchy near Queenstown.

Paul and Debbi Brainerd have opened a revamped general store in the town and applied for resource consent to rejuvenate the campground and surrounding area. 

They also envisage replanting the approach from the Glenorchy entrance sign to the store and permission has been granted for landscaping by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

However, since launching the project a vocal minority have questioned aspects of the resource process, the scale of the development, Overseas Investment Office involvement and consultation.

Some members of the Glenorchy Community Association (GCA) say the campground as a one-stop-shop threatens other businesses. 

Committee member Niki Gladding said consultation was lacking.

"It's not what they are doing, it's the way things are being done. They are going on about community and consultation. It's ripping the town apart, there're vested interests everywhere."

She said the GCA was now almost dysfunctional, but chairman Pete Reid said there was simply a vocal minority against the Brainerds.

Reid submitted an association email to the council supporting a minor landswap for a campground driveway, without members officially meeting.

Secretary John Glover withdrew the email of support and, at another meeting, a motion supporting the landswap - providing there was consultation regarding the future of a public right of way - was defeated. Gladding and Glover claim the GCA constitution was not followed but Reid, and others, disagree.

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Glover, who runs Kinloch Lodge with wife Toni, said he welcomed new businesses but the scale of the Camp Glenorchy project would directly compete with existing accommodation.

The town was faced with rapid, substantial change in a small community where progress was normally slow and incremental.

However, Reid said any "rift" related to a vocal minority.

"Speaking personally, the majority of people are really happy with it. Any local who has been there for a long time, they can all see it's a great thing. The loudest voices of this wee minority, they've only been here for five minutes and a lot of us can't understand their problem."

Mull St commercial landlord Trish Fraser disagrees and said foreign investment was a national issue.

She said businesses were worried about the impact of a one-stop-shop on their trade.

"What happens when a billionaire moves into a small town? There's a real imbalance. I thought they would go in there and do up the shop for the campers and that would be great. It's just gone beyond that."

In the background is the Overseas Investment Office, who were not initially asked to approve the Brainerds' buying the campground and adjoining lots. They have since applied for retrospective consent.

The Brainerds, in a statement, said retrospective consent was filed last year after they learnt a parcel of land beside the camp was designated as a reserve.

The land was mainly used as a campground overflow car park. The store and Camp Glenorchy development did not threaten other businesses and overall trade in the town appeared to be up, the statement said.

"Many letters have been written in support of our application. Our OIO application is still pending and we have been told will be responded to shortly.

"When the campground re-opens next year, the project will provide overnight accommodation, which will continue to improve existing business opportunities for others in the town by having more people able to stay longer in Glenorchy."

Asked why there was such a vocal opposing minority, the Brainerds said any change attracted opposition and it was part of Glenorchy's independent spirit to hold strong beliefs and express views.

"This has always been true. When the road was built to Queenstown half the community supported the effort and half opposed. The road was built and few would question that it was the right decision today. We think the same thing will happen with the Camp Glenorchy project."

The developers have filed for voluntary notified resource consent to "allow the community to air their views."

Overseas Investment Office Land Information New Zealand manager Annelies McClure said the application was being assessed.

 - Stuff

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