Queenstown Chamber isn't backing Project Manawa

by Kim Bowden - Dec 19, 2023

The Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce will not be throwing its support behind the council's Project Manawa plans for now, with members voicing concerns it is not the right time nor the right place for building the ambitious civic precinct.

Chamber chief executive Sharon Fifield has made public the submission she has made on behalf of her members for the council-led consultation.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council is asking for feedback on a proposed joint venture with Ngāi Tahu Property to build an office block to house 600-plus council staff in the CBD - eventually, the plan is for the building to sit within a wider precinct on the Stanley Street site, which a land swap between the council and the developer will help enable.

In the chamber's submission, Ms Fifield says a "key concern" for the businesses she represents is the proposed central location for the civic administration building.

A "lack of easy access to the town centre" is "exacerbated" by the lack of car parking or an effective public transport system, she says.

"These are barriers to encouraging both visitation into the CBD and recruitment of staff."

The council position is that it has already canvassed the community and received support for a centrally located HQ, but Ms Fifield questions the validity today of that claimed public endorsement.

"We are in a far different economic, technological and social environment since 2017 when Project Manawa was initially proposed.

"The ways in which businesses operate are also different in terms of remote working.

"Given the other issues our communities are facing, we don’t feel like this project is a current priority."

It is the second influential voice in as many weeks to come out in opposition to the council's plans. Four former mayors of the district have penned a joint letter to current mayor Glyn Lewers and councillors saying land already owned by the council on Ladies Mile is the "logical location" for any new offices.

On Friday, the mayors met with Mr Lewers, but details of the conversation are unknown, and councillors were also excluded from it.

In her submission, Ms Fifield questions the degree to which the public can meaningfully contribute to the latest consultation due what she claims to be a lack of detail and transparency from the council on the project.

"It is difficult to establish a position on Project Manawa without understanding the long-term costs, alternative options and the feasibility of all options."

She outlines a number of unanswered questions she has including ongoing costs to ratepayers, the future of the Stanley Street site and other amenities proposed for it if the council offices do not proceed there, and pros and cons of other alternative locations.

"In conclusion, the timing of this consultation a week before Christmas and the absence of transparent information means we are unable to support either the land transfer or Joint Venture on behalf of our members."

The QLDC has extended its Project Manawa community consultation to Friday (December 22) after technical faults with the council’s online feedback site were revealed.

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