Conference centre plan presented

An artist's impression of the 750-seat meeting space, part of the architects' concept design for the Queenstown conference centre. Image supplied.
An artist's impression of the 750-seat meeting space, part of the architects' concept design for the Queenstown conference centre. Image supplied.
Consultants working on a proposed conference centre for downtown Queenstown yesterday unveiled concept plans for a $52.6 million facility capable of holding up to 800 delegates.

The facility would cover about 1ha of the 10.7ha Lakeview site earmarked by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, with other potential development including a 150-room hotel, 185 high-density residential units and 6500sq m of commercial and industrial space.

Representatives of Populous, the largest international architectural firm specialising in convention centres, outlined their vision for the facility to about 120 people at a public briefing at the Queenstown Memorial Centre last night.

Populous principal Chris Paterson said Lakeview was a ''world-class'' site for a conference centre, and the design was about ''showing off what that site is about''.

Included in a plan was a 750-seat meeting space, 1100sq m banquet-exhibition hall, and meeting and pre-function spaces totalling more than 1500sq m.

A range of optional features were outlined that would improve the building's flexibility, such as movable walls, but they would add to the facility's price tag.

Jan Tonkin, founder of the country's largest convention management company, the Conference Company, said she had tested the design's fitness for purpose with a range of event scenarios, and ''came out confident in the end that we have the real ability to deliver''.

One scenario, which Queenstown could not accommodate at present, was an international conference involving 700 delegates, 40 stands and six-to-eight concurrent sessions.

Representatives of Queenstown companies providing technical production services for conference organisers asked the most focused questions of the evening, criticising aspects of the design as inflexible, and inadequate for technology-based events.

They offered to discuss their concerns with Populous. In June, the council decided to press ahead with its conference centre proposal, subject to factors such as securing capital funding on top of its own $32.5 million contribution, amending its long-term plan and considering alternative rating models.

Last month it proposed a district plan change to rezone about 13ha of council-owned and private land as ''Town Centre'', extending the central business district across the Lakeview site.

Council manager of strategic projects and support Paul Speedy said the council aimed to complete a draft master plan, confirm Government funding and approve a project development agreement for the conference centre this year.

Next year, it wanted to finalise total funding and adopt the project into its 10-year plan, with construction beginning in the first quarter of 2016.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann Lockhart said another briefing focused on funding the conference centre would be held in about two months.