Bid to continue after e-bike venture application fails

Upper Clutha resident Rik Deaton is taking on the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Wanaka Community Board over his thwarted plans for a new tourist venture.

Mr Deaton is the owner of 80 sturdy, Swiss-made e-bikes he wants to rent to tourists from a spot on the Wanaka lakefront.

But his attempt at obtaining a lakefront reserve commercial licence from the council has been unsuccessful.

Mr Deaton said this week he felt let down by the community board, which he said appeared to support his application initially.

"We tried last year, having been given to believe by the Wanaka Community Board that this had been approved in principle and they liked our concept for active sightseeing and transport using e-bikes."

But his planner was told "no" in a phone conversation with a council representative.

Board chairman Barry Bruce had no comment this week.

At the Lake Wanaka lakefront with two of their 80 e-bikes are (from left) Rik, Juliet, Bayne (14)...
At the Lake Wanaka lakefront with two of their 80 e-bikes are (from left) Rik, Juliet, Bayne (14) and Spencer (22) Deaton. PHOTO: MARK PRICE

Earlier this year, the board approved a licence for long-standing lakefront operator Lakeland Adventures.

Mr Deaton said he had no argument with that decision but could not understand why he had been declined, with no reason given.

"The council won’t even talk to us.

"We find the council impossible to engage with."

The failed attempt to establish the business, which included leasing and renovating a Wanaka building, had cost him about $55,000.

Council senior parks and reserves planner Aaron Burt said Mr Deaton had applied once for an area in the Roys Bay-Pembroke Park open space, "whereas commercial activities are instead anticipated in the CBD lakefront connection area".

But the CBD area was at its "commercial capacity", Mr Burt said.

The council wanted commercial uses to be "clustered", leaving the rest of the reserve for recreational purposes.

"The suggested activity would limit the ability of the public to enjoy the reserve in the area," Mr Burt said.

There had been previous proposals for bike hire businesses on the lakeshore, he said.

"It is a common commercial inquiry.

"Given the extreme popularity of the lakefront reserves in Queenstown and Wanaka for recreational use by residents and visitors, and the consequent volume of commercial concept proposals, the bar is very high and such proposals are typically unsuccessful.

"If all proposals were instead successful and consequently granted, the reserves would cease to be places for public recreation and wellbeing."

Unsatisfied with the council’s handling of his application, Mr Deaton is taking his proposal directly to the public, gauging support via a petition with a strongly worded covering letter.

The area of the lakefront reserve he wants to use is in the new car park opposite the showgrounds.

"You can’t swamp the lakefront reserve with too many commercial licences — we understand that.

"But we think what we are offering ... has significant community benefits."

His plan to rent his e-bikes to tourists included having spare batteries available at points around the Upper Clutha’s cycle trail system.


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