Consenting panel approves new, lowered Lakeview plans
The contentious billion-dollar, decade-long residential, retail and commercial development at the base of the Queenstown gondola has had its resource consent approved from an independent fast-track consenting panel.
But not in its original state.
Under guidance from the consenting panel that it would be a thumbs down unless they did so, the developer has dropped the height and mitigated the bulk of five tower blocks.
Previously, the proposed apartment blocks would have been the tallest in town - up to 13 storeys high and approximately twice the allowable limit.
The height and bulk of the blocks have been a sticking point for the decision makers, after an urban design expert shoulder tapped by them to advise on the developer's plans cautioned the appropriateness of them in the Queenstown setting - they were more suited to metropolitan Auckland than at the base of Ben Lomond in alpine Queenstown, he said.
While the original fast-track consenting application referred to 370 residential units, including 137 designed for "co-living", today's decision refers to 224 residential units, including 79 units designed for co-living.
The panel's decision, with its conditions, is now publicly available on the website of the Environmental Protection Authority, which manages the fast-track consenting process.
"We wish to record that this decision was reached by a narrow margin, and our views did not crystalise until very late in the drafting," the panel says in its written decision.
"We regard as critical the changes we require to the top of the proposed buildings to achieve an acceptable degree of preservation of the townscape character of the zone, despite the buildings considerably exceeding the height limits for the Lakeview Sub-zone."
The panel also acknowledges in its decision the changed playing field since the Government introduced its fast-track legislation to "urgently promote employment to support New Zealand’s recovery from the economic and social impacts of Covid-19".
Now, local employers are struggling to recruit staff, and unemployment is low.
"Either the Act has been wildly successful, or Parliament possibly did not anticipate the inflationary effect of constrained labour supply that currently prevails. Nevertheless, our duty is to decide this application in accordance with that Act in the light of its stated purpose. And we have had regard to its purpose accordingly," the panel says.
"There can be no doubt that if the Applicant exercises the consent we grant in this decision, it will provide additional demand for construction-related employment, goods, and services for many years to come."
The consent is for the first stage of what will be a multi-staged development.
The 10-hectare site includes land that previously was home to a camping ground and cabins.
The applicant is QT Lakeview Developments Limited, a consortium that includes Ninety-Four Feet, Centuria Capital (formerly Augusta Capital), and Britomart Hospitality Group.
It has a development agreement with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, who controversially opted to retain ownership of the land rather than sell it outright to the developer.
The QLDC has said publicly it hopes to retain some control of project objectives in doing so.
In its decision, the consenting panel says the developer's "application is consistent with the intent to provide urban living environments within the town centre that reduce the reliance of private vehicles and encourage pedestrian links to be established and used".
The decision comes 145 working days after the application was lodged with the EPA, and this excludes the 50 working days the application was suspended at the request of the developer as it sought to refine its plans to get it across the line.