Residents say Coronet 'gondola park' is large new township being greenwashed

by Peter Newport - May 20, 2024

A group of residents is challenging what has been launched as a mountain biking and gondola park at Coronet Peak saying that it’s actually a large 800 home subdivision behind an “eco” smokescreen.

The project is being promoted by a new company called Coronet Village Ltd. The sole director is planning consultant Ben Farrell. The project has applied for fast-tracked government consent.

The full Coronet Village plan - with the gondola being a small area in the top right of this image.

Mr Farrell presented to a hastily arranged residents meeting last week but his focus was on the planned gondola that would take mountain bikers up to Coronet Peak from Malaghans Road on land currently owned by Coronet Station.

The station has been owned by Irish billionaire Eamon Cleary and more recently Robert 'Mutt' Lange, the former husband of singer Shania Twain. Mr Cleary’s son Bernard is believed to be involved in the financing of the project along with Xero founder Rod Drury.

However, many residents noticed on the gondola plans a large residential and commercial development that bordered the gondola. There’s room for approximately 800 residential units as high-density duplexes or town houses with approximately 600 car parks. There’s a “mixed use village centre” and two private school campuses, both linked to the Liger Academy.

Speaking to Crux today from Brisbane where he is on holiday, Mr Farrell says, “It's not just one gondola, it's not just one housing development".

"It's actually a comprehensively designed project, and it's a really exciting project.”

Residents opposed to the plan have produced their own concept image of the proposed Coronet Village.

Mr Farrell declined to provide any further detail including whether or not he’d applied for fast-tracked resource consent.

Residents who attended the Wednesday meeting have published an open letter that challenges the entire project saying the new township has been “skirted over” in particular by Mountain Scene property reporter Philip Chandler. The community newspaper made little reference to the new township or the new schools, referencing "a village with some housing" while mostly promoting the gondola park and claimed carbon-zero credentials of the proposed development.

Last week’s meeting was presented with a copy of the Coronet Village fast track application document that included some of the township elements. Attendees were asked to keep all documents and plans confidential.

The residents’ open letter says: “To be presented on one proposal and see something completely different in the paper the following day was very disappointing”.

“The plans are not well thought out and overlook that there are significantly better areas to consolidate housing and commercial development in the district, already identified by appropriate zoning.

“There is no infrastructure in place, while two options (onsite and piping to Frankton) are offered for sewage disposal, urban surface run off will ultimately be discharging to ground and to Mill Creek. An environmental disaster in the making.”

You can read the full letter here.

Documents shared with residents show the Coronet Village high density housing could equal a population of around 3,000 to 4,000 people - wht 600 car parks

Mayor Glyn Lewers has been drawn into the controversy, saying in response to Crux questions today that he is aware of the proposal. 

“Council officers made me aware of the potential development around one month ago. Further, the developer made me aware of its fast-track consent application a few weeks before the first media coverage. It’s not uncommon for me as mayor to become aware of potential developments around the district."

He would not be drawn on specifics related to the site, saying it was too early - and not his place - to comment.

“Precise details in terms of their scope and timing only become clear through the consent process. In this case, the decision to apply for fast-track consent has been made by the developer via a government process. As such the matter remains between the developer and the government and it isn’t appropriate for me to provide further comment at this time.

The mayor called into questions aspects of the public meeting.

"Whilst I didn’t attend last week’s public meeting, it’s been brought to my attention that certain statements made during the discussion were factually incorrect.”

It’s not clear whether Mr Lewers is referring to the developer or the residents getting their facts wrong at the meeting.

One thing is clear, however, and that this is a major township that is almost the size of Arrowtown. One of the two Liger Academy school campuses was described as being a “boarding school with 270 beds”.

One development option reduces the number of dwellings in favour of an onsite wastewater processing plant.

The Otago Regional Council has told Crux they have not received any information about the Coronet Village project.

At the time of publication the QLDC had not replied to Crux questions on the project.

Crux will carry further coverage of the Coronet Village project over the coming days and weeks.

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