A Wakatipu developer has announced plans for a
privately-funded Queenstown convention centre - throwing a
curveball into the debate.
Remarkables Park issued a statement this afternoon saying
it'll build a centre near its Frankton retail precinct -
it'll seat 650 for dinner and have capacity for 1000 for
Remarkables Park co-director Alastair Porter says the site's
fully zone, has no timing constraints and construction can
start next year - with it available for use by 2015.
Porter's announcement comes on the eve of tomorrow's special
meeting of council, scheduled to kiss or kill plans for a
proposed council-led convention centre development in
An agenda for that meeting - already delayed a week after a
flood of 748 submissions - recommends council proceed with an
integrated development on council-owned Lakeview land up Man
Street, conditional on Government funding.
That proposal has a worst-case cost scenario of $145 per
The Remarkables Park statement says its proposed site would
resolve the community's Convention Centre dilemma as it would
guarantee the district a Convention Centre, but not require a
rates levy to underwrite operations and losses.
Porter adds a Remarkables Park Conference Centre would be
based on private equity funding but the company remained open
to joint venture capital injections from other private
equity, central government and/or local government sources,
which would enable a higher specification facility.
Mountain Scene wants to ask Porter who the private
equity backers are and if he'd be willing to turn up to
tomorrow's council meeting and substantiate the claims in
Remarkables Park's statement, but has been unable to contact
Remarkables Park originally submitted a proposal for a
"At the time the committee provided us with a debrief we said
Remarkables Park would nevertheless develop a Convention
Centre albeit on a basis that would not require Council
funding," Porter says in the statement.
"Given councillors are being asked to make an extremely
important decision for our community (tomorrow), we recognise
we'd be open to criticism if we didn't provide this
information before that meeting."
Back in December, Mountain Scene revealed that it
understood Remarkables Park had lodged a bid with council but
Porter wouldn't comment citing confidentiality clauses.
Prior to that, Porter had never been shy in pushing the view
that a centre would be better cited at Frankton than
"If you want to grow the downtown, put a conference centre in
the downtown. If you want to grow the downtown even more, and
the whole district, then put the conference centre in
Frankton," he said last year.
Today's statement by Remarkables Park says the convention
centre would be in an area that met all the benefits
identified by council but without risks for the community,
would still benefit the CBD while its geographical location
would be beneficial to the wider district.
Porter says the Remarkables Park site was "fully integrated"
with the development of Remarkables Park and Frankton Flats,
with amazing views to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
The site is located immediately east of the Remarkables Park
Town Centre, south of a new confirmed high school, west of a
proposed tertiary education development and north of the
future Remarkables Quay Resort and Ferry Terminal. It is also
appropriately close to the airport, the Hilton hotels, the
Remarkables Park future medical precinct, the Lakes District
Hospital and other Frankton Flats development.
Porter says a planned water ferry would in the future make a
"memorable experience" for delegates travelling in and out of
the CBD and through the Frankton Arm, landing in the heart of
the CBD at O'Regans Wharf.
In any event he said he thought it highly unlikely anyone
coming to a conference would not visit downtown
The design will also provide a large exhibition area, smaller
break-out rooms, and can be easily expanded to cater for
future growth as the site is large enough.
Remarkables Park said the company had invested a significant
amount of money engaging leading international and national
conference centre experts to help put together its
comprehensive bid to the Conference Committee in December
2012, and it had always been its intention to use this
research and expert team to support a more cost-effective,
privately-funded alternative project if necessary.
"We recognise that timing is important for Queenstown, not
only as there's strong competition from Australia for
conference venues but proposals for Auckland and Christchurch
will also provide stiff competition," Porter says.
"We believe the quicker we can open this conference facility,
the better this will be for Queenstown.
"It'll build loyalty for Queenstown as a conference
destination and should also work for Auckland and
Christchurch as a lead generator for future larger
conferences in those cities.
"We believe today's announcement has many positive benefits
for the wider Queenstown-Lakes District community."
Queenstown's council boss Adam Feeley has described the
unveiling of 11th-hour plans for a privately-funded
convention centre at Remarkables Park as "laughable".
"If Alastair had serious investors willing to both construct
and operate a convention centre, why would he pick 12 hours
before a council meeting to give us the heads up?"
- Ryan Keen, Mountain Scene