Opinion: Cath Gilmour on Project Manawa

2 minutes read
Posted 15 February, 2024
Screenshot 2024 02 15 085047

Council’s planned new offices for 600 staff could be built with no debt, no rent, and leave money in the bank for cultural and community facilities.

But not as proposed by QLDC’s Project Manawa – a project supposed to create our “community heart” in downtown Queenstown, through a complicated and costly land swap process and joint venture that would cost ratepayers forever rent and substantial debt.

Mayor Glyn Lewers, in last week’s LWB podcast, claimed selling much of the extensive Stanley Street reserves to become Ngai Tahu tenants on land we currently own is the best financial option for building new offices. It is not. And council offices are not a community heart.

In light of sidelined consultation, opaque process, inadequate investigation of alternatives and Project Manawa’s unaffordability, a group of long-term locals have come up with options that prove false council’s narrative that there are no viable alternatives.

We suggest Council should stick with its initial plan to build its own building on its own land. But in Frankton Flats instead of downtown Queenstown.

The reasons are myriad. Frankton Road’s traffic chokehold and downtown’s sparse parking will only get worse. Frankton Flats offers far cheaper land and development costs, better access for staff and community, in a more logical central location. Most locals’-focussed business and community services have already made the move because most locals live closer to Frankton than Queenstown.

So our suggestion?

  • Sell just the eastern block Stanley Street reserves. Valuer feedback is that the land would be worth $7-8,000/m². This equates to $44-50million, but council could maximise this value through an open market process by transferring the Stanley Street reserve status to freehold Queenstown Events Centre land.
  • Assuming a $6000/ m² build cost, the proposed 3250 m² council office building would require less than half the sum gained.
  • Keep the western Stanley Street blocks as local purposes reserve. Council then retains this land’s capital value gain, control, and its proposed public transport hub (which, in fact, is just a wide footpath).
  • If, once consulted, our community says this is where our cultural and community heart should be, it’s available. Or its sale would help fund this elsewhere.


There are two obvious council owned freehold sites that could be used – one adjacent to the proposed Whakatipu Community Hub, behind the Events Centre and the Crown, and the other the BP roundabout corner, once the state highway is widened and driving range relocated.

And no doubt, if asked, private Frankton Flats landowners could come up with other alternatives. All that needs to happen is for council to stop this community heart craziness to ensure meaningful consultation and full analysis of options, as is legally required in matters of high significance.


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