New conference centre must be the right size

22:45, May 14 2014
duncan field
DUNCAN FIELD: 'If we 'over build' then the ratepayers are left carrying the capacity of any facility.'

At the opening of the new Queenstown private jet base last Friday I was part of an interesting conversation about how big the new conference centre should be. Forget whether it should happen at all (that's a no brainer), and whether it's in the right place.

While I personally think there is another, better, site, to re-litigate the location now would only further delay an essential project.

But how big, and what facilities? Our conversation ranged over some local examples. Being at the airport we reflected on how many times in recent years the airport has been extended and enhanced. By contrast some tough decisions about the Aquatic Centre have meant that what was built at Frankton remains able to cope with anticipated growth for the foreseeable future.

The issue is important because all the indicators are that we are forging into another period of rapid growth. This phenomenon, which left the community "flatfooted" in many areas the early 2000s, has the potential to do so again unless there a concentrated effort made to forecast and accommodate this pressure.

If we "over build" then the ratepayers are left carrying the capacity of any facility. But if we under-build then ratepayers will face a "second bite" and/or business will suffer when the conference facility doesn't live up to its potential.

I know what I think but it's time for that issue to be publicly aired over and above issues like whether it needs to be built, location, and financing.

Duncan Field owns Limousine Services Queenstown, is a past chief executive of the Queenstown Lakes District Council and is an occasional consultant.