Housing plan could be delayed

Queenstown housing. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Queenstown housing. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
A long-awaited strategy to address housing and development issues in the Queenstown Lakes district could be delayed by up to a year after the district council failed to secure up-to-date data.

The Otago Regional Council agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes a report on the Queenstown Lakes Future Development Strategy.

The strategy was due for public notification within the next few months, but the report said the strategy had issues with data.

"In 2022, a decision was made not to reassess the Housing and Business Capacity Assessment (HBA) because the data was considered sufficient.

"Based on recent information, the data is now no longer considered robust enough and a new HBA is required," the report said.

"In addition, because the original HBA was outsourced, the data cannot be extracted to enable the model to be re-run."

The regional council report said the information was due to be complete in time for the 2024-34 long-term plan, but the report acknowledged this was no longer possible, and instead the QLDC hoped to have it ready for the 2025-26 annual plan.

"To ensure a similar situation does not arise in the future, QLDC intend to procure a new model that can be managed in-house."

It comes at a particularly fraught time for the Queenstown Lakes housing market.

Stats NZ’s subnational population estimates showed the district’s population grew 8% over the year to June 2023, also the fastest growth since 2018, adding pressure to the district’s housing market.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment rental bond statistics indicated virtually no change in the number of active rental bonds in Queenstown Lakes over the year to August 2023, showing there had been no change in the supply of rental properties despite the strength of population growth.

The ORC report said the strategy would form part of the QLDC’s response to the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which will help direct the rules for development and infrastructure in urban areas.

"Officials advise that a delay in meeting the timeframes is preferable to accepting the risks in using an HBA that is potentially unreliable," the report said.

The report said there had been changes in QLDC’s situation since the original data was compiled in 2020, such as QLDC’s reduced financial capacity to provide infrastructure servicing, uncertainties around Three Waters reforms, and higher than anticipated population projections.

"These factors, along with the complexities of producing an updated HBA without access to the original model, reduced the robustness of the HBA, which in turn creates legal risk," the report said.

It recommended the councils write to the minister for environment and the minister for building and housing apologising for the delay, and ask for an extension.

"The delay in notifying the draft future development strategy will need to be communicated publicly.

"QLDC and ORC staff will work together to ensure this occurs, including correspondence to and from the minister," the report said.

The Otago Daily Times approached the Queenstown council for comment yesterday morning.

A spokesman said Queenstown councillors had been briefed about the issue and a statement was likely to be issued today.

The regional council could not comment yesterday.