Report for Lakeview convention centre

The photo, taken from Antrim Street above the preferred Lakeview site, owned by Queenstown Lakes District Council, has an artist's impression of the centre inserted by architects Populous. Photo by QLDC.It has taken three years, 10 reports and more than $500,000, but on Thursday the Queenstown Lakes District Council will be asked to approve a recommendation it forge ahead with its proposed convention centre on the Lakeview site.

This is despite a private developer being expected to lodge consent today for a conference centre at Frankton.

The report on the council's proposed convention centre, prepared by transition manager Paul Speedy, was released publicly last night.

In it, Mr Speedy said that the proposal for Remarkables Park developer Alastair Por-ter's convention centre at Frankton - for which consent is expected to be lodged today - was ''difficult to assess''.

Remarkables Park Ltd had declined or been unable to provide cost estimates or funding sources in any detail.

It had said it intended to build a centre regardless of the Queenstown Convention Centre proposal ''but to date there appears to be little tangible progress''.

Consultants Horwath HTL had said two centres could help create critical mass for a convention centre market because of the lack of capacity with current venues.

Mr Speedy said there would be competition in the medium-sized market but not for international conference activity, largely because the budget of about $30 million was insufficient to ''meet specifications for international conventions''.

The distance from Queenstown's CBD would also be a drawback for international conference organisers.

The report's recommendation was for the council to resolve to approve its convention centre subject to several conditions, including securing capital funding required in addition to $32.5 million proposed council contribution.

The report said the Government was ''unlikely'' to agree to the $20 million contribution proposed in the QLDC funding strategy. However, the Government might consider ''a visitor levy''.

Any shortfall could be met by finding alternative sources of capital, a visitor levy, establishing the [centre] in stages, and/or reducing construction costs.

Mr Speedy said there had been ''significant public consultation'' along with ''extensive wider public debate through the media'', all of which had demonstrated ''polarised views''.

However, there was more support than opposition, except over funding.

''A predominance of residents prefer targeted business rates, while there appears to be a broad level of acceptance of higher rates by Queenstown businesses.''

There was likely to be ''strong national and international demand'' for a convention centre in Queenstown; Lakeview was the ''preferred option''; and financial forecasts indicated even with ''domestic competition'' the council's centre could produce ''modest operating surpluses''.

While a business case based on return on equity was ''at best marginal'', one based on wider economic development was ''significantly stronger''.

''It is difficult to think of a single alternative project or development in the district which could produce the same level of visitor, GDP or population growth.''

An economic impact analysis noted a convention centre would add 466 full-time equivalent jobs; result in $9.8 million being spent annually within the district; add $30.9 million to the GDP and attract about 29,000 visitors annually, excluding partners and family of conference delegates.

While risks were significant - particularly if no casino was included - effective marketing and a ''well-qualified operator'' would reduce the most obvious financial risks, Mr Speedy said.

A Horwath HTL report considered the council's convention centre would be ''likely'' to break even by year three and make a surplus of about $420,000 by year five.

However, these figures ''made no provision for depreciation; major capital replacement; debt repayment or interest payments on debt; or a ground rent''.

Mr Speedy said Horwath HTL factored in various matters including the number and size of conferences and competition from Remarkables Park.

''The possible scenarios produced year one results ranging from +$623,000 to -$1.73 million and year five results ranging from +$2.6 million to -$845,000.''

Other recommendations the councillors would be asked to consider on Thursday were to amend the long-term plan to incorporate proposed costs associated with the development; consider alternative ratings models which include options for an expanded central business zone and reduced residential contributions and approve a final ratings funding model; and approve a preferred operating model.

Council officers would be directed to report back to the council by July 30 with a draft plan change for the establishment of a Lakeview sub-zone; a proposed master plan for the site; and alternative design options for staged or reduced construction costs.

Officers would be directed to report to the council by September 30 with alternative ratings options.