Site above resort to be transformed

Concept designs for the Lakeview site. IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Concept designs for the Lakeview site. IMAGES: SUPPLIED
After nearly two decades of discussion, work is about to start on a sweeping redevelopment of a hillside terrace above downtown Queenstown. Guy Williams looks at what the Queenstown Lakes District Council and its private consortium partners are planning for the site.

With its commanding views over downtown Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, Lakeview has been a popular camping spot for Otago and Southland families for decades.

However, over the past 20 years or so, its motley collection of 170 cabins became increasingly tatty and dated.

Their redeeming feature was the low-cost housing they provided to hundreds of the resort’s lowest-paid workers, including many migrants.

Last year, as the council progressed it plans for redeveloping the site, the few remaining tenants either moved out or were evicted.

A complex mix of reserve land, council-owned freehold land and roads, the 10-hectare site is bordered by Thompson St and the Ben Lomond scenic reserve.

With the Skyline gondola hill looming behind it, council planners have long viewed it as ripe for high-density development and taller buildings, and successive councils have formally discussed options for the land since 2003, including, controversially, a $60million convention centre.

Boarded-up cabins in Thompson St, and (below) the former toy library. PHOTOS: GUY WILLIAMS
Boarded-up cabins in Thompson St, and (below) the former toy library. PHOTOS: GUY WILLIAMS

That vision finally gained some serious traction four years ago with a district plan change that made Lakeview part of an extended town centre zone.

Arguing the site was "underperforming" commercially, the council signed an agreement last October with Melbourne-based developer Ninety Four Feet and Auckland-based investment company Augusta Capital.

Over the next decade, phased over seven stages, the consortium plans to transform a 3.3ha chunk of the land into residential apartments, hotels, and retail and hospitality space.

Courtyards, lanes, plazas, streets and other community spaces will take up about another hectare, while the rest of the site will remain reserve land occupied by public parks and a downsized Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park.

The heavy machinery will finally move in this month, when a contractor will begin clearing the cabins and other vacant buildings, including old council records storage sheds, ablution blocks and a toy library.

Work will also begin on the installation of a new stormwater line from Thompson St down Brunswick St, the first part of a $15million three waters and roading infrastructure project that will take a year to complete.

Meanwhile, a council statement this week said planning was under way on the first construction stage, a residential apartment development.

However, another long-mooted proposal for the land, a hot pools complex by Ngai Tahu Tourism, has run out of steam.

In 2014, the iwi business unveiled concept plans for a $25million complex consisting of 16 hot pools, a health spa, reception and retail building, and a cafe-restaurant.

An enthusiastic council agreed last year to grant the company a long-term lease on a 0.75ha piece of reserve land.

But in a statement on Wednesday, Ngai Tahu Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio said its tourism arm was no longer proceeding with the complex "due to the economic impacts of Covid-19".

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said while unfortunate, the announcement reflected the "economic realities" facing the district.

The site proposed for the hot pools was an "exceptional" one, with fantastic views and protected trees, and the council was open to other interested parties doing something there.

However, another company with a stake in Lakeview remains bullish about the resort’s economic prospects.

Singaporean company Well Smart Ltd was granted consent last year for a 130-room hotel within the Lakeview zone, on the corner of Thompson and Glasgow Sts.

Director Jack Jia said the project had been delayed because it was revisiting the hotel’s design after appointing an operator.

However, it was not deterred by the impact of Covid-19 and remained optimistic about the resort’s future.

"In fact, we believe the tourism market in Queenstown is going to reach a new height in two to three years."

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