High-rise push near downtown

By Nina Jensen

City Hall’s plans to enable a high-rise corridor near downtown Queenstown have been revealed in greater detail.

Council resolved last month to propose its own special housing area (SHA) on Gorge Road.

It’s aimed at tackling the housing crunch by making it easier for developers to build houses and apartments – up to six storeys high.

A new map issued by the council shows huge chunks of land the SHA will cover.

They include the Wakatipu High School site, which will be vacated in 2018, minus the school field.

And on the opposite side of Gorge Rd, it takes in all the land from the Caltex corner down to and including Gorge Rd Retail Centre, next to Matakauri Park.

Councillor Ella Lawton says: “Gorge Rd would be an ideal place for higher density and potentially worker accommodation.

“We’ve included conditions to ensure we get the type of housing we need – the type of accommodation that’s lacking in Queenstown.”

In developments larger than 30 units, a third would need to be smaller and more affordable – with a gross floor area of just 40 square metres.

Ngai Tahu has first refusal on the four-hectare high school site once it’s no longer used for education.

Mountain Scene revealed last month the iwi’s interested in acquiring the property.

But its property division declined to comment on the SHA plans.

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust executive officer Julie Scott says change can’t come soon enough.

Expressions of interest via the trust’s website doubled in November and December compared with previous months.

“It’s pretty intense,” Scott says.

“More and more people are coming into town, and we’re just not keeping up with supply.”

The trust was established by the council eight years ago as an independent body.

Scott adds: “I think it’s great the council is taking a lead and stepping up.

“SHAs are just one component of solving the housing affordability issue. There’s no silver bullet but this is one more mechanism.”

Other SHAs are proposed by developers on land they own.

Last week Bridesdale Farm became the first fast-tracked subdivision to be virtually rubber-stamped.

Approval’s been given for 134 new homes on a 32ha block in a precedent-setting decision by council-appointed commissioners.

Significant changes were made, including deleting 11 proposed house sites nearest the Kawarau River, reconfiguring some plots next to existing properties and shrinking plans for garden allotments.

The Gorge Rd SHA is different, coming direct from council and applying to multiple properties and landowners.

There are six chunks of land in total.

Some of the potential 20 metre-high developments would be near existing housing.

Lawton says increasing density close to town, with possible shading, is an “unfortunate reality” for householders in cities around the world.

“The council’s taken a pretty strong view that density is the way to go as we continue to grow.”

Public consultation is open until February 12.

21 January 2016

Source: Mountain Scene

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