Former backpackers on Queenstown main drag sits empty for years

by Lauren Pattemore - Jan 18, 2024

A former backpackers consented in early 2022 to be converted into a boutique hotel is sitting empty, as those behind the project are either silent or unsure as to whether it's going ahead.

The centrally-located Shotover Street building's ground floor is bare and its outdoor side steps are overgrown with vines, collecting rubbish, including takeaway containers, vapes, empty alcohol bottles and cans, and one stray sanitary pad on the day Crux visited.

Private hotel investor Pandey Hotel Corporation, part of the CP Group, purchased the four-storey building in November 2020 with plans to transform it into a luxury accommodation, as reported by the Mountain Scene at the time.

According to OneRoof the property sold for $20 million.

A subsequent building consent application shows plans to refit the former Base Queenstown Discovery Lodge into a "Fables Hotel", hosting a large 200-person-capacity restaurant and bar on the ground floor, with space for around 170 occupants across 66 rooms.

Empty on Queenstown's busy central Shotover Street.

Among the building consent files, the last documented correspondence between the Queenstown Lakes District Council consenting staff and contracted project management company PCI Projects is in March 2023, when the latter asks for an extension of the building consent's timeframe one week before it was set to lapse.

"I am getting conscious of BC211726 [the building consent] expiring shortly and I don't trust the client to capture the letter when/if it is sent to them," the email from PCI projects assistant manager Evan Ranum says.

"Can we please extend BC211726 for another 12 months as construction has not yet commenced. Let me know if you require anything further."

This email was sent on March 27, 2023, and the council granted the developer one more year to begin work, making the $26,000 building consent's new expiry date April 4, 2024.

Speaking to Crux today, a representative of PCI Projects says they haven't heard from the developer for quite some time and are not aware of any work happening.

Unsure of the state of the project, the representative directed further questions to the developer.

Crux has already contacted CPG Hotels for an update and was told on January 10 to send questions to operations manager Ronnie Ronalde via email.

However, Mr Ronalde has not acknowledged written questions sent on that same day.

It remains unclear if the 3,200-square-metre building will ever get its rags-to-riches transformation, and open as a luxury hotel. 

Also unknown, what has stalled or stopped the project.

Directly across the road is the former YHA backpackers building that was shut down during the pandemic. It is now leased to Novotel's owners, who use it to provide accommodation for 70 Novotel and Kamana staff.

General manager of Novotel Queenstown Jim Moore tells Crux, they "don't know what they'd do without it".

Right now Novotel has a "full team of staff", and Mr Moore attributes this to the ability to offer staff accommodation at the former YHA facility.

But he does acknowledges the arrangement doesn't work for all his employees, and says some have lived in the facility temporarily before moving into flat share arrangements or other accommodation.

The building was leased to Novotel on a long-term basis in late 2022.

Although inquiries have now stopped, he says when Novotel first took on the lease there were "many" enquiries from other employers around town asking about the option to house their staff there too.

Support Crux Support Crux