Minister set to fast forward QLDC's Ladies Mile masterplan

by Kim Bowden - Mar 28, 2023

The council’s masterplan for development of land adjacent to Queenstown’s Ladies Mile will be given a procedural fast-forward by the Minister for the Environment.

Minister David Parker will allow the Queenstown Lakes District Council to use the Streamlined Planning Process to consider whether to rezone land in the Te Pūtahi Ladies Mile area from rural to urban.

The minister’s decision is expected to be gazetted later this week.

Until then, the Queenstown Lakes District Council is not commenting on the news. 

However Crux has been told by the minister's office that the streamlined process will include an opportunity for anyone to make submissions on the potential rezoning, a step that was requested by QLDC councillors when they directed staff to make the application to the minister.

An independent public hearing process will follow, with submitters invited to present evidence to a panel. This panel will include members with special expertise on the effects of this potential rezoning on traffic and stormwater.

Once the public hearing process concludes, the minister will make a final decision on whether the rezoning should be approved or declined.

The streamlined approach is an option for councils preparing a new planning instrument needed to implement a national policy direction or address a significant community need, and is an alternative to the standard roadmap outlined by the Resource Management Act.

Urban spread on Queenstown's rural boundary along State Highway Six between the Shotover River and Lake Hayes is inevitable, and the council's Ladies Mile masterplan is aimed at proactively planning for that growth. However, changes to land use rules are need to enable its implementation.

At capacity: What can commuters expect as Ladies Mile is further developed for higher-density housing?

Southland MP Joseph Mooney has been calling for the minister to make a prompt decision and approve the council's application for the streamlined process.

Speaking with Crux last night at a protest in Queenstown organised by working locals struggling to find accommodation, Mr Mooney welcomed news it's been given a thumbs up.

The masterplan was unanimously approved by the council midway through last year, and he reckons, with the current housing squeeze in the district, new land for development can’t come soon enough.

The masterplan allows for the development of 2,400 high or medium-density homes and potentially a town centre with a supermarket, a new high school and primary school, and a sports and community hub.

Opponents have voiced concerns that State Highway Six, which would feed new residents on the swathe of land into Frankton and on to town, is already at capacity. 

But it’s the MP’s view a well-planned development will mitigate stress on the busy arterial route.

“The plan has been designed to encourage a walking and cycling community, which would serve to address legitimate concerns about increasing traffic over Shotover Bridge,” the MP told Crux earlier.

“It’s not a traffic problem but a facilities problem, addressed by having a Shotover Country town centre and making sure that many don't have to cross it at peak hours by having new schools and other services and facilities such as a potentially new supermarket.”

'It’s not a traffic problem but a facilities problem': Southland MP Joseph Mooney says the Ladies Mile masterplan is a step in the right direction.

Congestion isn’t the only detracting feature of the masterplan, and during rounds of consultation during its development the majority of those who had engaged had been opposed to it.

For many residents, it’s tough to think the masterplan may spell the end of what’s long been a rural gateway to Queenstown. Also, of concern, the existing deficit of community facilities for residents already in the area.

But, the masterplan was revised, based on feedback, before being adopted by councillors in June.

The later changes freed up space for for new parks and open spaces, proposed rules to address concerns about visitor accommodation in residential areas, addressed landowner concerns around the minimum density for the high-density area (from 70 units per hectare to 60), and factored in new recommendations for biodiversity - think native plantings favoured by native birds - and preferred locations for education facilities, the council said at the time.

Also speaking to the decision, former district Mayor Jim Boult said the council’s intent to proactively plan for necessary development along the Ladies Mile corridor had "been extensively signalled and debated publicly since May 2019".

“While there remain concerns for some over the proposed development of the area and the management of traffic congestion, it is also evident the area will be developed over time."

The masterplan would provide "certainty for the community and clear expectations for developers for how the area could change", he said.

The council's Ladies Mile masterplan isn't the only project in the area to circumvent usual planning procedures - two resource consent applications for subdivisions on Ladies Mile were given go-ahead to use the Government's fast-track consenting process developed as a Covid-19 response.

One of them, a planned subdivision centred around the Glenpanel Homestead was declined by an expert consenting panel in November. The second fast-track approved consent, for a neighbouring new development of a similar type, is yet to be lodged.

Whether additional housing along Ladies Mile is a silver bullet for the district's critical housing shortage remains to be seen.

Staff at the council are already dishing out more building consents than in most other spots around the country.

In fact, there's enough new homes being built across the district to house both long-term locals and short-term visitors - last year alone approximately 1,080 more homes were consented than were needed to meet population growth demands.

Main image: Queenstown is growing and the Queenstown Lakes District Council wants a masterplan to ensure residential development is done right on prime land along the Ladies Mile entrance to town.

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