Push for Queenstown council offices to move from CBD

Four former mayors, in an unprecedented move, are lobbying for proposed new Queenstown council offices to be sited outside the CBD.

The council’s currently seeking public submissions on its Project Manawa ‘statement of proposal’, in which community and cultural facilities — including a civic admin building — would occupy an aggregated CBD block fronting Stanley St, which would be co-developed with Ngai Tahu Property.

Ex-mayors Sir John Davies, Warren Cooper, Clive Geddes and Vanessa van Uden this week emailed current mayor Glyn Lewers and his councillors to "strongly oppose" the admin building being located there.

"We believe the council administration office would be best placed on council’s recently acquired land at the Ladies Mile," they say.

"It is the logical location — easily accessible with plenty of parking.

"Alternatively other options outside of the Queenstown CBD should also be considered."

The foursome finish up by asking if they can have dialogue with the current mayor and councillors.

Elaborating on their letter, one ex-mayor, speaking anonymously, says the bulk of the proposed Project Manawa buildings concerns them, along with the burden it’ll place on ratepayers, many of whom are struggling.

In addition to a proposed bus hub, the ex-mayor suggests some of the large site could be used for parking and reserve space instead.

Ironically, the location for new civic offices — replacing five CBD locations currently used by 400-plus staff — was hotly debated by councillors at the end of August.

In the face of some councillors and residents, in public forum, raising Frankton as a preferred location, Lewers said he recalled an earlier council decision favouring Stanley St.

He then used a casting vote for consultation to proceed on the CBD option.

Asked to comment on the ex-mayors’ submission, council CEO Mike Theelen says "what we’re developing at Stanley St is bigger than the council offices, it’s a long-term vision for a civic and community heart".

"The council building plays quite an important part in being part of that civic presence but, also, if you look at urban design principles, often these civic precincts need people to keep them alive.

"And if you’ve got 400 staff, in and around on a daily basis, and people coming and going to the civic building or the library, it’s an important part of that."

Theelen says in the CBD masterplan, which councillors endorsed in 2018, the community/civic centre bookended the town centre.

"It was quite close to what is planned to be the main transport hub, there’ll be a civic square there, and I suppose the council building is just part of that.

"But I think [objectors] have also got to think about the council building as a statement of civic presence, of civic pride, as opposed to just a functional office.

"I suppose the question is, why not the CBD for those civic and community functions?

"That would be a little bit like Christchurch City taking their civic offices to Hornby or Wellington City moving its offices to Porirua."

Theelen also has a swipe at the ex-mayors suggesting the offices move to council’s Ladies Mile site.

"That land was bought because it was for playing fields and for community spaces.

"So putting up a council building in an isolated site halfway down Ladies Mile doesn’t seem to me a particularly great suggestion."

Public consultation on the Project Manawa statement of proposal closes December 17.