Public shows opposition to Project Manawa

Queenstown CBD is set to be impacted by a roading project recently approved by the Queenstown...
The public doubled down this week on its opposition to the major civic development proposed by the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

At a hearing in Queenstown, a council panel chaired by Cr Lyal Cocks was given a range of reasons why Project Manawa — billed as the "new civic heart" of the tourist town — should not go ahead on the location or in the form proposed.

The verbal messages followed 179 mostly negative written submissions.

The panel was tasked with hearing submissions on just two aspects of the proposal — a series of land exchanges and a joint venture arrangement with Ngāi Tahu.

However, submitters’ views canvassed all aspects of the proposal for a new council office, library, art space, town square and commercial buildings in Stanley St.

Cr Cocks began by saying the panel would listen and would "take account" of what was presented before making a recommendation to the council.

​​​​​​He warned personal attacks on staff were not acceptable.

Brian Fitzpatrick handed the panel copies of the council’s own minutes from 2016 to make the point the siting of the complex in Stanley St was not set in concrete at that time.

Mr Fitzpatrick quoted the section of the Local Government Act requiring the council to identify and assess "all practical options".

"This will be your council’s decision — a 2024 decision.

"You can’t pretend the final decision has already been made."

Mr Fitzpatrick wound up his five minutes of speaking time by pointing out the panel had not invited submissions on Project Manawa as a whole, "but having read the submissions you certainly received them".

Alastair Clifford did not consider consolidation of the site, via the land exchange proposal, was necessary or that ratepayers would benefit economically from a joint venture with Ngāi Tahu.

"There appears to be an inherent risk in entering into a partnership that is neither needed or wanted by the community, regardless of who the partner might be."

"I urge our elected councillors to follow through on the overwhelming opposition to this proposal and put a stop to this madness now."

Lyal Cocks
Lyal Cocks
Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sharon Fifield said based on recent decisions over development in the CBD "there is a lack of confidence that this project is not going to leave ratepayers again out of pocket".

Ms Fifield said chamber members had more pressing issues than Project Manawa, such as parking and access to the CBD.

Joanne Conroy called for public consultation on the whole project and did not believe the council office should be located in the CBD.

"It will result in several hundred employees travelling on the congested Frankton Rd every morning and afternoon.

"I think the council should go back to the drawing board."

Among the written submissions, Matthew Paterson provided one of the few in support of the proposal because it would help "sell ourselves" to the world in a similar way to Aspen.

And, Ian (no surname given) supported consolidation of the council’s buildings in a traditional town centre.

"Moving hundreds of the relatively few remaining professional jobs in Queenstown out to the sea of car parks and soulless big box buildings in Frankton or Ladies Mile would be a death knell for the traditional town centre of Queenstown."

Most submitters were either opposed or neutral.

The cost was an issue, particularly because of the council’s existing level of debt and the range of other infrastructure requirements facing the district.

Robyn Wilson submitted: "I can’t afford for our rates to go up hugely again".

Several took a swipe at the council, including Daniel Hamilton.

"Our community is in a dire situation of debt and mismanagement by our mayor’s office and the local council."

Jon Mitchell considered cost figures presented by the council were "sketchy".

"Given QLDC’s track record on project budgeting, we should at least double the $113 million estimate ..."

Ryan Daniel was one of those calling for the council to build new offices somewhere other than the CBD.

"QLDC needs to get out of Queenstown and move to the land they have at Ladies Mile."

Former mayor John Davies submitted the council should not sell a section of freehold CBD land as was being suggested.

"... to watch the council move towards a sale of the land shows that the majority of councillors have a lack of fundamental financial knowledge".

 - A public hearing on an aspect of proposed improvements to Queenstown’s public transport system scheduled for last Tuesday was cancelled because the one submission was withdrawn.

The matter related to a piece of reserve land potentially affected by the upgrade of the bus hub at Frankton, which is part of the government’s multimillion-dollar New Zealand Upgrade Programme.