Four-storey former hostel still sitting empty in Queenstown's heart

by Kim Bowden - Jun 06, 2024

A 65-room former backpackers in central Queenstown continues to stand empty with rubbish piled up in an adjacent alleyway, years after the building sold to a private hotel investor.

Broken guttering off a verandah level with the ground floor of what was the Base Queenstown Discovery Lodge hangs over the footpath on Shotover Street.

One local resident speaking to Crux calls the "precariously" hanging gutter a "disaster waiting to happen".

Despite a buyer planning a boutique, luxury hotel, the former Base backpackers sits empty years on.

They also have concerns about the state of an alleyway between the building and its neighbour that appears to have become a dumping ground for electronic goods, wooden pallets, cardboard boxes, and general waste, alongside close to a dozen wheelie bins. 

It is their view the council should be taking action.

However a spokesperson for the Queenstown Lakes District Council says its role in sorting problems related to the building and the alleyway is limited as it is "a privately-owned piece of land".

Council records show just one complaint received this year about the property.

"This was made in April and was specific to rubbish in the adjacent alleyway and concerns about kitchen staff from nearby hospitality businesses using the alleyway to transport food," the spokesperson says.

"Council is generally limited in the enforcement tools it has available and it also prevents our waste management team from collecting any rubbish."

The problem reported in April was resolved after discussions between the council's environmental health team and nearby business owners, the spokesperson says.

Two pieces of legislation dictate what the council can do in response to reports of a mess like this one on private property - the Health Act allows it to deal with rubbish when it starts to attract pests, like rates or mice, and the Food Act, if an offender is producing or selling food.

In November 2020, the news broke that Pandey Hotel Corporation, part of the CP Group, had bought the former backpackers lodge with an eye to converting it to fit its then new luxury, boutique hotel brand, Fable Hotels and Resorts.

At the time of the sale, Dean Humphries, the national director of hotels for Colliers International, who brokered the deal, said properties like these in the heart of Queenstown "are rarely traded and characterised as strategic core assets”.

Unless there's a risk to public health, the council says its hands are tied as the alleyway off Shotover Street is private property.

The hotel company applied for and received building consent to refit the backpackers for its purposes, but this consent has since lapsed.

The council spokesperson says its Building Warrant of Fitness is on hold, and the council has the ability to issue a Dangerous Building Notice if it considers the building to be dangerous in some way, with the definition of dangerous set out in the Building Act.

The building remains unoccupied.

Crux has approached the building owner for comment.

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