Panel calls for pause on Project Manawa

3 minutes read
Posted 1 April, 2024
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The now-boarded Queenstown Arts Centre was closed to make way for Project Manawa

The tide appears to be turning against controversial plans to build new council offices in downtown Queenstown.

And that's down to the public, a group of former mayors, local organisations and businesses, who ignored the limited scope of recent council-run consultation and instead made forceful submissions on the whole concept.

Some 178 submissions were made during the pre-Christmas consultation on Project Manawa, with 27 people speaking before a hearing panel in February.

The Project Manawa site covers huge blocks of land off Stanley Street, where QLDC in partnership with Ngāi Tahu Property plan to develop civic and commercial buildings, including council offices, a library and eventually a performing arts centre.

A potential layout for Project Manawa with the civic admin building (A), the library (B), performing and visual arts centre (C) commercial buildings (D & E) and a town square (F). Outcome of 'option 1' land swap

But many locals have questioned the logic of siting the $50 million 'civic administration building' downtown, rather than in Frankton, and raised concerns around the structure of the deal - which would see cash-strapped QLDC pay $30m towards the build but then lease the offices from Ngāi Tahu Property.

Submitters also challenged the contention from council boss Mike Theelen that the public had already been fully consulted on the plans back in 2016, and given the go-ahead.

And the hearing panel appears to have listened.


It is recommending that a review is completed on the location and ownership of the proposed council office, providing greater detail on why the Stanley Street site was identified as the preferred location, for comparison with an alternative site in Frankton.

The panel also recommends potential further public consultation.

And, it says, negotiations on the proposal for a joint venture partnership with Ngāi Tahu Property should not proceed until the above review is complete, subject to further consideration and approval by the councillors.

Councillors will consider the hearing panel's recommendations this Thursday.

QLDC Strategic Projects Manager Paul Speedy says some "important key themes" came through in the consultation.

 "These included concerns about the location of a proposed Council office, impacts on traffic and parking, the need for further consultation on the location or the need for such facilities, the cost to ratepayers, lack of information on the proposed joint venture arrangement, and whether a project of this nature was a priority compared with other infrastructure projects,” he says.

The hearing panel was made up of Councillor Lyal Cocks (chair), and Councillors Melissa White and Craig (Ferg) Ferguson.

The original narrow scope of the consultation focused on a land swap and the governance structure for constructing and administering the new civic administration building at the Manawa site - establishing a CCO (council controlled organisation).

The land swap

On the land swap, the panel recommends 'option 1'. which "enables a whole of precinct solution that preserves reserve land around the historically important Ballarat Street axis, central to the site, and unlocks more freehold land for future development and/or revenue-generation opportunities".

Outcome of 'option 1' land swap

The panel also recommends unlocking additional carparking on the Stanley Street site in the medium term.

The vast majority of submitters opposed the plans, notably including Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce, former mayors Vanessa van Uden, Sir John Davies, Warren Cooper and Clive Geddes, Frankton developer Remarkables Park, and former councillor Cath Gilmour.

The plans also include a 'transport hub' along Stanley Street. The new arterial route, which itself has proved massively disruptive and controversial, runs behind the site.

The recommendation will be considered by full Council at a public meeting on Thursday, 4 April, at the Council Chambers on Gorge Road, from 2pm. It will also be livestreamed on the Council’s Facebook page.

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The site includes the former Queenstown Arts Centre, Queenstown Playcentre, also boarded, and land towards Gorge Road

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The former Ballarat St carpark, now a works depot for the arterial road project, and upper Ballarat St itself are both part of the Project Manawa site


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