Skyline car park referred; rockfall concerns

Walkers approach the summit of Ben Lomond. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Rockfall from Ben Lomond has been cited as a concern for the construction of a proposed multi-story car park. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Skyline Enterprises believes any adverse effects of a proposed multi-storey parking building in Queenstown will be outweighed by its benefits.

However, the potential for rockfall from Ben Lomond was raised as a potential issue the company may need to deal with, during a hearing before the Environment Court this week.

Skyline was granted a direct-referral to the court for its resource consent application of a 448-berth car park, proposed on land at the bottom of Ben Lomond, beside its existing, and proposed, lower gondola terminal.

The car park appears to be a key component of Skyline's larger plans - a $100million-plus redevelopment of its lower gondola terminal, gondolas, and upper facilities.

The application for the bigger development was heard by the Environment Court last year and an interim decision, issued in August, found no reason to decline it at that stage.

Provision of at least 350 car parks, however, was required.

Skyline counsel Graeme Todd submitted that the subsequent car park proposal "can and should be granted consent" when conditions - which would avoid, remedy or mitigate any adverse effects on the environment - were considered.

"Skyline submits the proposed car park building will successfully address the existing and anticipated issues around demand for car parking for users of the gondola, other Ben Lomond Reserve users and its staff.

"The car park will have a significant benefit not only on Skyline, but other users of Ben Lomond Reserve, as well as provide a wider benefit to the Queenstown community and the New Zealand tourism industry."

However, Judge John Hassan and commissioners Kate Wilkinson and Russell Howie heard the potential for rockfall from Ben Lomond down to the building - proposed to be located beside Skyline's lower gondola terminal - was a hazard that needed to be addressed.

Mr Todd said that issue was not raised during last year's hearing, but could be dealt with in a similar way to the fire hazard risk, which was identified.

In that case, parties were to work together to come up with a management plan, to be certified by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and reviewed.

Both the Otago Regional and Queenstown Lakes District councils, however, sought for specific mitigation measures regarding rockfall.

Those included constructing earth bunds, between 3m and 6m wide and up to 100m long, at various points on Ben Lomond, potentially covering a walkway between the car park and lower gondola terminal, and using shock-absorbent building materials.

Mr Todd said Skyline had already obtained a lease from the council for the proposed building - that was publicly notified and no submissions were received.

He submitted any adverse effects which might outweigh benefits accruing from the proposal had been avoided, mitigated or remedied, and the company had amended the development to address "the majority of concerns" from parties initially in opposition.

He said when the proposed building was considered in the context of the immediate receiving environment - including existing development in the area and more planned through the Queenstown Lakes District Council's plan change 50, which extended the resort's town centre zone - the effects of the proposal on the wider landscape would be "no more than minor".

The hearing has been adjourned for Skyline to specify proposed measures to deal with the rockfall issue, and for closing submissions thereafter.

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