Billionaire backs bunker plan for government figures, tech innovators

Rod Drury. Photo: ODT files
Rod Drury. Photo: ODT files
‘Build it and they’ll come’.

That appears to be the thinking behind tech billionaire Rod Drury’s latest project in Queenstown: a Ngai Tahu-influenced meeting house for conclaves with high-level  government figures and fellow tech innovators.

It’s also another sign the Xero founder and former chief executive, who divides his time between the resort and Wellington, is putting roots deeper down into the area.

In July, Queenstown’s council gave a Drury entity permission to build a massive two-storey, 2277 square metre house on his 29-hectare landholding on the northern side of Speargrass Flat Road, which is under construction.

Now, the same entity’s proposing ‘Te Wharehuanui’, a bunker-like building about 200  metres from the house for the purpose of inviting ‘‘government leaders and global technology innovation company executives’’ for meetings.

Planning documents say the meeting house would bring ‘‘very influential people’’ to the resort, whom Drury hopes would invest in the Queenstown-Lakes and create new technology, innovation and jobs.

They show the above-ground parts of the building, with a 587sqm footprint, would consist of blackened steel, schist stone and concrete.

It would sit in a park-like setting of exotic trees and ‘‘naturalistic sweeps’’ of shrubs and tussock.

Inside, it’s dominated by a circular, sunken meeting room, with a skylight above the main meeting table and large bifold doors opening to northern and southern views.

There won’t be any accommodation or cooking facilities, and the building won’t be let out commercially.

An architectural statement by Sumich Chaplin Architects, which also designed the nearby house, says Te Wharehuanui is designed to ‘‘pierce under the rolling landscape with the natural ground line and native grassland flowing over the building as a green roof’’.

The documents say the applicant identifies with Ngai Tahu, and wishes to ‘‘instil Ngai Tahu’s values, as well as art, with Te Wharehuanui as inspiration and guidance for officials/executives who visit’’.

Besides spending a fortune on building projects, Drury’s been pouring millions into the district’s mountain biking scene, and, more quietly, the Drury family’s supporting other local initiatives, including those supporting mental health and resilience.

Drury couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline.

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