Convention centre still looms large

There is only one candidate challenging incumbent Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden, but there are 14 contesting six Wakatipu ward places and seven contesting the Wanaka ward's three.

Only two Wakatipu ward councillors are stepping down: Russell Mawhinney has cited wanting to focus on personal goals and business clients, and John Mann has expressed interest in joining the district's licensing committee.

When it was proposed last year to abolish the Arrowtown ward, more than 200 submissions were received, the majority in support of keeping the ward. Despite this, only sitting councillor Lex Perkins nominated himself to represent the village.

One of the biggest tasks facing the incoming council is that of the proposed Queenstown convention centre, which yesterday was kept alive by the current council.

Incoming councillors can decide against continuing with the proposal, but judging from the applause generated by the unanimous decision, Queenstown's business community would not want that.

The council established a Working Group to progress the idea in August 2011. A year later a request for proposal was publicly issued seeking potential partners to develop the centre.

In July 2013 the council officially put the idea out for public consultation. The incoming council will be faced with the more controversial decisions

such as whether to include a casino as part of the development and what funding model to use.

Queenstown Lakes continues to be one of the fastest-growing districts in New Zealand and the resort, surviving on its burgeoning hospitality and tourism industry, must offer those who work in these sectors somewhere affordable to live, as they are typically on low wages.

As witnessed in the verbal submission hearing for the proposed convention centre, there is concern from people surviving on low incomes in an area known for inflated prices about where they will live if the centre is confirmed and finalised for the Lakeview site.

At Lakeview are low-rent cabins which house more than 100 people.

The leases for the cabins expire in September 2015. In Arrowtown, the leases for the Suffolk St cabins, many in a similar state of disrepair, expire at the end of this month.

Incumbent mayor Vanessa van Uden has said the issue of affordable housing is one for everyone in the Queenstown Lakes District, including developers who must release the available zoned land to the market.

The council's proposal to gift a section of Suffolk St land bordering Jack Reid Park in Arrowtown, on which low-rent cabins sit, drew much criticism from the Arrowtown community and some people at a public meeting muttered that affordable housing should be put ''on the dark side'' of town.

An integral dilemma not new to Queenstown's council is how to best provide for visitors who come here in their millions while having a small number of residents to pay rates.

The protracted and continuing saga of the Frankton Flats zoning will carry over for the next council, potentially costing ratepayers more and using council resources.

After the Otago Daily Times lodged an Official Information Act request it was revealed Queenstown Lakes District ratepayers had paid almost $755,000 for legal costs in court battles concerning the Frankton Flats in the past four years.

A Pak 'n Save supermarket and Mitre 10 Mega hardware store were proposed for Frankton.

After approval was granted last year, appeals against them were allowed in a decision this year.

In Wanaka, the long-awaited $16.7 million sports facility and new swimming pool remain high on the community's priority list of ongoing council projects.

The district plan review and development of a new reserve management plan for all council reserves along the Lake Wanaka foreshore are also important issues for consideration.

Management of the town's growth is becoming increasingly necessary as proposals to rezone large areas of rural land for industrial, residential and visitor accommodation use move through the council.

Despite a recent survey of residents and ratepayers showing satisfaction levels with the council were at a high, there is an apparent disconnection from Wanaka people.

A campaign launched earlier this month is encouraging Queenstown Lakes District voters residing in Wanaka to write a comment such as ''Respect Wanaka'' instead of voting for either Ms van Uden or Mr Angus.

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