Mt Iron developer hopes to pivot to build-to-rent housing

by Lauren Pattemore - Aug 22, 2023

A worker accommodation village consented for near Wānaka’s new Mount Iron roundabout at the junction of State Highways Six and 86 may become build-to-rent and build-to-buy instead, as developers see new potential for the greenfield site.

Developer Stephen Schikker of Mt Iron Junction Limited says the Queenstown Lakes District Council's call for urban growth sites two months ago got the cogs turning.

His idea is a mixture of different housing types on the undeveloped six-hectare site, with build-to-rent and build-to-buy on the list, allowing different options that may suit the diverse needs of the community.

“We're just providing another option for the council, and it (the new plan) aligns to what we believe they're looking for.”

From mid-June to mid-July, the Queenstown Lakes District Council put out a call to the community for urban growth sites; land that could be used for affordable housing, that was close to services, existing roadways, and close to the CBD to limit residents reliance on a personal vehicle.

Mr Schikker says Mt Iron Junction’s land fits the bill and could be intensified with a minimal amount of effort.

“What they're (the council's) looking for, is to try and get people to stop living in cars…and if they're serious about it, and they're looking for land that would be suitable, then we believe we have land that is suitable.

“It is really up to their processes to determine whether this would work."

Mt Iron Junction Limited was given a resource consent to build a 90-bed worker accommodation village in 2021, as well as a service station and 13 two and three-bedroom homes. But, in changing times, Mr Schikker says there might be better uses for the space.

It has been seven years since Mt Iron Junction Limited, of which Mr Schikker is a director alongside Peter Greene, first had design plans drawn up, and they’ve since reconsidered the worker's village.

“It's not to say it would not still work...We just think there could be some better options that would serve the community better…Not everybody wants to share a house with eight people.”

It’s been a highly anticipated development in the town, with the first application made to the council including a motel, a childcare centre, a mini-golf site and retail space, but this had to be scaled back due to the “rural” status of the area.

The council rejected these first plans in November 2018, and Mr Schikker says it’s frustrating the land is still classed as “rural” in 2023.

Whatever the decision, action can’t begin on the site until Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency finishes the Mount Iron roundabout.

April 2024 has been posed as the finish date in the latest update from the agency.

Mr Schikker says if the council doesn’t pick up on their proposal, they’ll still build what they were originally consented to do: the worker’s village, service station and 13 two and three-bedroom houses.

Build-to-rent is a development concept that is gaining traction as one potential solution to the district's housing crisis.

Essentially, build-to-rent is a large residential development designed specifically for renting rather than sale.

More common offshore, the developer behind Frankton's Toru Apartments is pioneering such developments in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, stages two and three of Toru - two high-rise build-to-rent housing blocks - did not go ahead and the developer put the land back on the market in May 2023.

At the time, Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust Julie Scott spoke to Crux in support of build-to-rent housing, saying the current rental crisis highlights the need for more decent quality rental stock.

Stage one of the development, Toru East Apartments, opened in 2021, with 42 households on the trust's waitlist provided a home in this block.

Ms Scott says she would welcome conversations with any developers keen to build well-located residential developments in the district.

Yesterday she told Crux the trust’s waitlist now has 1,022 households.

Main image: Early designs of the proposed accommodation village, which Mount Iron Junction LTD's Steve Schikker is now reconsidering.

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