Cheers after 'yes' to convention centre

Vanessa van Uden
Vanessa van Uden
Cheers and applause erupted at the Lake Hayes Pavilion yesterday afternoon after the Queenstown Lakes District Council voted to proceed with its convention centre, opposed by Crs Cath Gilmour and Ella Lawton.

The council's decision followed a public forum lasting an hour and almost an hour and a-half of round-table discussion.

Immediately following the meeting, Remarkables Park developer Alastair Porter issued a press release, labelling it a ''narrow majority decision'' and saying its decision ''at best'' confirmed the council's support for the Lakeview site.

Of the 10 councillors, all but two were present at yesterday's meeting, with Mel Gazzard overseas and Simon Stamers-Smith on a leave of absence.

Cr Stamers-Smith forwarded a letter to Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden which stated he was opposed to the recommendation and sought a delay on the decision until after July 31.

Cr Gazzard, through a letter to the mayor, was supportive.

Before councillors voted, Ms van Uden said any decision had to be ''what's best for the Queenstown Lakes District as a whole''.

''For me, this is not a race.

''This is not about who has the best or worst convention centre, not who gets the last say on the press release or ... how many bits of paper we have got.

''It would be easy for us to walk away today ... and say 'there's a free one on offer ... let's take that'.

''This is not a recommendation that says ... 'go out and build us a convention centre ...', this just says that the project needs to go to the next stage.''

Ms van Uden said there were ratepayers who had contributed to the Queenstown Memorial Centre who may never go to it, as there would be ratepayers who would assist in funding any proposed Wanaka Sports Facility who may never use it.

''That's the principle of working together as a community to do it.''

Ms van Uden said the resort deserved to have a convention centre commensurate with the visitor experience. It needed to meet the expectations of visitors and ''advance one of our most significant assets - the Queenstown CBD''.

''Is a neighbourhood shopping centre ... the best place for our visitors to come and have a conference with us, or is it the Queenstown CBD?''

Following Ms van Uden's address, members of the public applauded, as they had done after Cr Gilmour voiced her opposition to the recommendation.

Cr Gilmour said while she could see the ''many positives'' she had not been fully convinced the benefits outweighed the risk for the council.

Earlier, council chief executive Adam Feeley said it might take up to nine months for the Government to make any decision on its level of funding. In the interim, the council could progress work on alternative means of funding any shortfall.

Options included rating, a visitor levy, staging the construction of the centre, or amending the design by removing some of the ''nice-to-haves''.

Mr Feeley said the biggest risk the council faced was litigation.

''We can't stop litigation ... regardless of the merits.

''The best way we can manage it is to ... notify the plan, which has been very thoroughly worked through, effectively identifies and mitigates [risk] and having the best possible work [done].''

The matter will next come before the council on July 30.