US billionaire's luxury Wānaka bolthole rejected again

Peter Thiel’s proposed luxury lodge near Wanaka. Image supplied
Peter Thiel’s proposed luxury lodge near Wanaka. Image supplied
Billionaire Peter Thiel has lost his appeal of a decision refusing consent for a proposed luxury lodge overlooking Lake Wānaka.

Peter Thiel. Photo: Getty Images
Peter Thiel. Photo: Getty Images

The Environment Court has released its judgement after Thiel company Second Star Ltd sought to overturn a 2022 decision by a Queenstown Lakes District Council consenting panel.

The company wanted to develop the four-building, grass-roofed complex, which would accommodate up to 30 guests, on a site overlooking Glendhu Bay about 7km from the Wānaka town centre.

In the decision, Judge Prudence Steven said although the lodge’s design was ‘‘attractive and responsive to its setting’’, proposed tree planting would not adequately screen the buildings from several public viewpoints on the nearby public track, and the landscape values of the area’s outstanding natural landscape would not be protected.  

The decision follows a two-day hearing in Queenstown in March.

A Queenstown Lakes District Council independent resource consent panel decided the "large, very long building" would be too visible from a public walking track; the 1165sqm lodge was inappropriately dominant in the outstanding natural landscape (ONL); and design details lacked clarity .

Commissioners Ian Munro, Glyn Lewers and Wendy Baker said the lodge would be "particularly" and "frequently visible" from the nearby Glendhu Bay track.

"All members were quite shocked at the frequency at which substantial parts of the proposal would be in plain, direct view ... and in a way that would reinforce a scale of development at odds with the ONL," they said in a decision released yesterday.

Views of the lodge from the lake would also be large and in plain view, but not to the point that the ONL was compromised, they said.