Resort must maintain ‘high-quality visitor experience’

Queenstown is facing a range of infrastructure challenges, Kelvin Davis says. Photo: ODT files
Queenstown is facing a range of infrastructure challenges, Kelvin Davis says. Photo: ODT files

New Zealand’s tourism reputation is at risk if Queenstown cannot continue to deliver a high-quality visitor experience, a briefing to incoming Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says.

Kelvin Davis
Kelvin Davis

More than 170 briefings to incoming ministers were published yesterday to provide the public with a full picture of the issues facing the new Government.

One of those related to the pressure on Queenstown as a result of rapid and  unrelenting tourist growth, coupled with a small rating base.

"Queenstown is facing a range of infrastructure challenges  ...  there are 39 visitors to every one ratepayer.

"Given Queenstown is an iconic New Zealand visitor destination, there is a reputational risk to New Zealand’s tourism industry if Queenstown does not continue to deliver a high-quality visitor experience," the briefing said.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council had been working to develop a long-term plan to address the challenges and unlock opportunities, supported by the  Government.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult and council chief executive Mike Theelen presented a progress report on the business case to the tourism chief executives’  group in October.

At the official welcome for last week’s Great Southern Tourism Opportunity  briefing  in Queenstown, Mr Boult said under the plan the council faced spending  $1.3billion  over the next 10 years to provide infrastructure to service the future visitor and resident populations. The latter, should growth continue at its present rate,  would double in size every decade.

The briefing said NZ Transport Agency projects  comprised  a "large part of the proposed investment" and the council was looking at a range of scenarios to fund its  share of the predicted shortfall, which Mr Boult estimated to be between $400 million and $500 million, including maximising its debt ratio and selling assets.

Recently the council has begun the process of asset sales — in October the council announced expressions of interest for commercial development on 4.4ha of its Lakeview site would open to the private sector early next year and in November it announced it was selling 9.5ha of Commonage Land on Queenstown Hill.

The  Government provided freehold land to the council through the Queenstown Reserves Vesting and Empowering Act 1971 to help fund infrastructure in the region.

The 1976 gift of 100 acres — about 40ha — of Crown land had been developed and sold over the years to fund district water and sewerage schemes.

The QLDC’s 35-year growth plan  focuses on transport infrastructure and enhancing the town centre.

"A key component of the masterplan is a proposal for a new arterial route around the CBD," the briefing says.

The MBIE was also providing input and guidance to help the council "frame Queenstown’s growth pressures within broader district, regional and national contexts".

"QLDC is engaging a consultant to assist them with this work," the briefing says.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said the briefings  revealed "significant challenges" for the new Government, which it would meet "head on".

"They reinforce the need for urgent action in some areas. In our first 100 days, we’re already delivering meaningful change."

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