QLDC documents reveal current HQ consultation will be used to green light project

by Peter Newport - Nov 23, 2023


Documents that formed part of a full Queenstown Lakes District Council meeting in August this year show that the current council consultation on a $100 million new council office and cultural centre is far from the “technical” exercise that it is being presented as. The documents also confirm that the QLDC does not yet know what the project will actually cost and that Ngāi Tahu Property may walk away from the deal if the community does not support the council in the current consultation process.

The consultation is being billed by the council as seeking feedback on two relatively detailed, technical questions:

  • What does the community think of a land swap mechanism to change the status of reserve land in Queenstown’s Stanley Street.
  • What does the community think of QLDC forming a 50:50 commercial development partnership with Ngāi Tahu Property.

Council staff revealed in a report to councillors in August this year that this apparently procedural consultation could in fact be a make or break as regards the business deal with Ngāi Tahu Property and even if the project goes ahead at all.

This is what council staff – specifically Paul Speedy, who also manages the Lakeview Project, and corporate services boss Meaghan Miller – advised elected members in an August 21 report this year in recommending the current community consultation.

Under “advantages” they told councillors:

“Community feedback is essential before QLDC can decide whether to approach both the Minister for Land Information and the Minister for Conservation with the proposals for the stopping of part of Ballarat Street and the proposed land exchanges, both to present clear proposals and also to show the views of the public have been considered.

“NTP (Ngāi Tahu Property) have made it clear that they need more certainty from QLDC in relation to the Manawa (council offices and cultural centre) Project before engaging fully on the opportunities, and consultation will provide the basis for this as the Council can then make future decisions informed by public consultation.

“(The consultation) demonstrates QLDC’s commitment to the partnership with NTP and also provides a clear process for Kāi Tahu (Ngāi Tahu Property) as a key stakeholder to provide feedback on the options.”

Source: Report to QLDC councillors from staff: 'Statement of Proposal for the purposes of a Special Consultative Procedure'.

Then the same two council officers make the following comments to councillors under the heading "disadvantages” of the current consultation.

“Given we (QLDC) are seeking consultation at an early stage, at a point when future costs are not fully quantified and the possible revenue from the commercial opportunities are not known, the consultation may raise concerns from the community regarding the potential future affordability of some of the proposed community assets (including CAB – new council administration building ) and public space.”

Source: Report to QLDC councillors from staff: 'Statement of Proposal for the purposes of a Special Consultative Procedure'.

Given the importance of this consultation as revealed by Mr Speedy and Mrs Miller in their report to councillors, Crux will continue our own community survey to match the timeline of the QLDC survey which closes on December 17.

The reason we are doing this is that the community has not been asked the key questions regarding “Project Manawa” as to how much it should cost, where it should be and if it should go ahead at all, especially in the context of 2023 council debt levels and the underinvestment in clean tap water that produced the recent cryptosporidium public health crisis.

Our concern is that the current QLDC consultation will be used to represent “community approval” when the subject of the consultation is limited to land swaps and development partnerships, suggesting the council currently may attempt to represent the whole project as a done deal simply because it's been proposed for a long time and the community has been consulted - albeit on relatively technical details that the community may not be able to take an informed position on.

Here’s the Crux survey results (532 responses) showing 93 percent community opposition to the current proposal. Some 47 percent are in favour of the QLDC staying in their current offices, 42 percent in a new but cheaper building outside the CBD, five percent in the CBD but in a cheaper new building, nine percent support the current project (we note the discrepancy between this and the 93 percent/seven percent response to question one) and two percent are in favour of the current design being built outside of the CBD.

Here's the full details of response so far and a link to take part in our survey. Our plan is to formally submit the entire Crux survey results to the QLDC's consultation by December 17.

Take part in the Crux survey here.

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