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The Tourism Industry Association has welcomed plans for a
proposed ''world-class'' convention centre in Queenstown,
saying any such development would bring significant financial
benefits to the region.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden announced yesterday
SkyCity Entertainment Group was its preferred operator for
the convention centre proposal. Lakeview, at the top of Man
St overlooking central Queenstown, was the favoured site.
Ms van Uden said the project, which has yet to get approval,
would be taken forward by a consortium led by Ngai Tahu
Property Ltd and Morrison and Co. The project team included
convention centre architects Populous, project management
firm RCP, Queenstown-based construction company Naylor Love
and New Zealand architects Fearon Hay.
SkyCity Entertainment Group's involvement comes as no
surprise, with chief executive Nigel Morrison already
indicating the company saw Queenstown's potential as a
tourism and high-roller destination. SkyCity is involved in
its inaugural sponsorship of the New Zealand PGA
Championship, near the resort from today and in December
bought a 40% share in Queenstown Casino for $5 million.
Ms van Uden said parties would not proceed with investing in
a centre unless a viable case existed and the community
supported the proposal.
''However, the quality of the proposal received to date gives
us confidence that if the financial viability exists, then we
have the best possible partners to unlock that potential.''
The council would set up an operating model for the centre
which would be financially neutral to ratepayers. Any
contribution from the council would be capped and fully
disclosed. The model would involve a project structure to
develop the facility and a separate structure for the leasing
and operating of the centre, she said.
''It is not the intention that council would be involved in
either the ownership or operation of a convention centre,
which is clearly not core council business.''
Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden
said the announcement was ''a positive step'' .
''There's still a long way to go, but if the business case
stacks up and the community is supportive, a convention
centre could bring great benefits to Queenstown and the wider
region,'' Mr Snedden said.
''As one of New Zealand's top visitor destinations,
Queenstown is a popular choice for meetings and conferences.
A purpose-built convention centre would attract new business
to Queenstown, creating jobs and a range of downstream
SkyCity spokeswoman Kelly Armitage, of Auckland, said the
company was ''interested in exploring the opportunities with
the consortium. Asked if its involvement would mean more
poker machines in Queenstown, Ms Armitage said the centre was
''a stand-alone venture - nothing to do with gaming''.
Ngai Tahu Property chief executive Tony Sewell said the
council expectation was the centre would open in two years.
He expected clear ideas of concepts, costings and short and
long-term job creation to be available by July.
Lakeview was the preferred site for the centre. Last August,
the council said it considered retaining ownership and
leasing to developers the 4ha freehold parcel of land, with a
section set aside for ''community housing''.
Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust chairman David Cole
said the announcement did not preclude trust aspirations to
aid affordable housing on the site.
''This has not been done behind our backs. There are parties
that are interested in that land and I include the trust in
those who are very keen to get around the table with council
and look at doing something quite fitting for its close
proximity to town and the core needs in the town.''
Queenstown Airport chief executive Scott Paterson said
yesterday the airport corporation supported a ''well-located,
right-sized'' convention centre as an asset for the district.
It was great to see progress in the announcement, Mr Paterson
''The market clearly fits the east coast of Australia, or
Auckland and Wellington businesses with our direct links.''