Call to proceed with convention centre

Mark Quickfall
Mark Quickfall
Two agencies representing Queenstown's tourism, commercial and industrial sectors are urging Queenstown Lakes District councillors to vote to proceed with the council's convention centre proposal today.

Destination Queenstown chairman Mark Quickfall said a convention centre on the Lakeview site would be a ''world-class, fit-for-purpose development'' in the right location.

If councillors abandoned the project, it would be ''dead in the water''.

''If we fail to keep this project alive now then we will be stealing this opportunity from our future generations. ''Queenstown must strike now and complete full due diligence while central government and the industry are investing in growing the high-value convention sector.

''Imagine if Queenstown had voted down the Events Centre all those years ago - it's hard to believe there was a strong possibility of that happening at the time.''

Voting to proceed with the project was not locking the council into building a convention centre, just the next step in a process.

''I think you've got to be very careful not to confuse the situation because someone has decided to build [a convention centre] in Frankton.''

Both proposals required more time to do due diligence, but were completely different in the sense that Remarkables Park Ltd's proposal was a private one.

''They're putting the money up and only have to deal with their own shareholders or investors, whereas [the Lakeview proposal] is being led by the council on behalf of the community.''

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chairman Charlie Phillips said the council's proposal was supported by the tourism and hospitality sectors as well as ''a wide range of sectors represented by the chamber''.

''We are confident that the benefits to the region's businesses and community will far outweigh the rate contribution being considered,'' he said.

There was not yet enough information about the Remarkables Park project to make a judgement on it, and he did not want to get involved in a ''slanging match'' between the competing proposals.

However, the chamber's preference was for the conference centre to be located in the CBD.

''When you come to a convention in Queenstown, you want to be within walking distance of town.''

Remarkables Park Ltd CEO and director Alastair Porter said the parallel drawn by Mr Quickfall with the Queenstown Events Centre was ''incredibly apt'', but not for the reason intended. An even more vigorous debate took place two decades ago about whether to build the Events Centre in Queenstown or Frankton, and no-one was complaining about its location now, he said.

''I understand [Destination Queenstown's] point of view because there's currently more action in the CBD than at Remarkables Park, but this convention centre will be with us for 50 years.''

In that time Queenstown's population would treble, and its largest centre of commerce - ''as a result of the council's own planning changes'' - would be at Frankton and Remarkables Park.

''We don't want the CBD to end up like some of the tourist centres in Europe - so congested and overbuilt that they become unattractive,'' Mr Porter said.

The council's report for today's meeting was misleading councillors and the community by manipulating the case for a convention centre at Lakeview.

Mr Porter challenged it to commission an ''independent'' survey of the community relating to convention centre issues.