Cardrona Valley takes charge; outdoor amphitheatre and green space plans

by Lauren Pattemore - Dec 07, 2023

Taking control of their destiny is part of Cardrona Valley's motivation for crafting a new plan for their township.

It's also about utilising unused council land, being realistic about the development that's coming, and planning for the future. 

After a series of well-attended resident meetings that began in August, the Cardrona Valley Residents and Ratepayers Society has drawn up concept designs for how they'd like their township to look in the near future.

Two days ago, the society sent an email to the Queenstown Lakes District Council requesting a meeting. They want to show them their Cardrona plans in the hope it will the council's own future planning.

They're awaiting a reply. 

One part of the plan is to transform the Cardrona Domain, home to the old Cardrona school and hall but mostly a large amount of empty land, into an outdoor amphitheatre. 

The perfect slope for an outdoor amphitheatre, says chairperson Blyth Adams (left) with former chairperson Tim Allan (right).

Cardrona Valley Residents and Ratepayers Society chairperson Blyth Adams says the plan is to utilise the natural slope of the hill and carve out seating to host concerts and outdoor movies.

Mr Adams says Cardrona doesn't have a lot of ventures that bring money into the local economy, but the amphitheatre could create more.  

Certain facets of the Cardrona plan have been kicked around for 20 years or so, but this year they've "got off our butts and done it", Mr Adams says.

There's about 60 permanent residents in Cardrona at the moment and they're from all different walks of life - there's fifth generation farmers, Auckland escapees, and world travellers all in the mix, Mr Blythe says.

And, in 2023, he says there's been a real mindset change in the town - a willingness to look at things "glass half full" and take the opportunity to bring together ideas.

He is finding residents are taking charge and looking forward to the society's planning meetings, always held on a Thursday to align with the community's traditional "thirsty Thursdays" catch up at the Cardrona Hotel.

Another concept in the plan is to better utilise two hectare's of council green space beside the main road that has been sitting empty for more than a decade - before this, it was a council waste station.

The group is keen to plant more natives along the river, develop a new transport hub because in the future the current school bus pick up spot will not be useable, and have a market square, community garden and vehicle charging station.

Another key issues for the township raised at the society's meeting: traffic. But locals have some suggested solutions, including installing new digital speed signs so drivers know how fast they are going. They'd like two of these stationed along the main road - right now there's only one, and it doesn't work.

They'd also like more speed signage.

As former society chairperson Tim Allan points out the Cardrona Valley Road is one where vehicles go 80 kilometres instead of 40 kilometres - yet the road passes "New Zealand's most photographed hotel".

He thinks better speed signage is also needed near the ski field entrance, pointing out it's 100 metres from the Cardrona Distillery and the new Mount Cardrona Development, which will have 400 households eventually. 

Cardrona is looking in the face of change, with a $650-million, 400-hectare alpine village development going up. Stuff reported in June that the first lot of residents will move in during the second quarter of 2024, but the development won't be finished for another 10 years. 

Mr Allan says residents at planning meetings have all been so eager to share their ideas on the whiteboard, that people have been "fighting over pens".

Back in April, when Mr Allan was the chair of the board, he sat down with mayor Glyn Lewers and council chief executive Mike Theelen to talk about what's going on in the Cardrona community.

The council gave them the green light to come up with their own plan. 

Mr Allan says the society's plan works in with the QLDC's Blue-Green Network Plan, which maps out current green (parks and reserves) and blue (waterways) spaces and how to better use them.

He says that by preparing this, they "do something with the money in the bank", referring to the society's unused funds, as well as have the plans at the front of council's mind when future budgets are being prepared. 

The concept plans have been drawn up by the society and Cardrona resident and Wānaka-Upper Clutha community board member Linda Joll and her company Reset Urban Design. 

Main image: Tim Allan (left) and Blyth Adams (right), who tag team the chairperson role on the Cardrona Valley Residents and Ratepayers Society on the two-hectare block of public land they think could be put to better use. 

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