$75m sale of Queenstown campground for $1b Lakeview scheme: Auditor-General rejects complaint

The Auditor-General has dismissed concerns about the $75 million sale of Queenstown’s camping ground for a $1 billion scheme planned by parties including an Australian Stock Exchange-listed company.

ASX-listed Centuria Capital, unlisted Australian business Ninety-Four Feet plan and other businesses plan around 1500 apartments, three hotels, a public plaza, hospitality and other amenities on the 10ha Lakeview camping ground.

That has been sold by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which also put a profit-sharing scheme in place.

Lakeview Taumata is planned to take about a decade to be developed and is on a terrace above the town, looking across Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range.

Crux Publishing managing editor Peter Newportcomplained about the sale, saying the financial return was less than should have been received and was not good value.

The Auditor-General said the sale was entered into in October 2019.

“The council told us that the agreement with the main developer, QT Lakeview Queenstown, has a base payment of $75 million for the land, plus a profit share payment that is structured to provide the council with an opportunity to participate in any uplift in land value and the success of the development over time.

“Based on the information we reviewed, we have not identified issues with the council’s processes that warrant further inquiry by us,” the Auditor-General said.

The council had made information about the development and its decision-making process publicly available on its website.

That included its objectives for the development, reports, papers and updates, information about it did not sell the land outright and about the value of the land.

Construction will be phased via seven stages, taking more than a decade to complete. The council would carry out the necessary subdivisional works, including the removal of historic asbestos, rockfall mitigation, and reserve development.

Three years ago, the Herald reported how some residents of the camping ground might be homeless after being evicted to make way for a billion-dollar development.

The former Lakeview camping ground site will be a mixed-use development, eventually home to about 1500 housing units, commercial and public land.

But about 300 people, many low-wage migrant workers, called its cabins home.

Many of the about 300 people living in the Lakeview cabins had already moved on by later in 2019.

Only a select few were able to remain in cabins due to be knocked down.

The cabins were $200/week-$450/week, much cheaper than the average market rental, with a three-bedroom home in Queenstown now more than $700/week back then, the story said.

Centuria said of the $1b plansthat benefits had been determined by Insight Economics.

A forecast one-off boost to GDP of $930m and an estimated 595 permanent jobs created during the construction life cycle of the precinct, with the initial stages creating 370 jobs regionally, had been forecast, Centuria said.

This would be one of Queenstown’s largest projects and a national example of sustainability using European-inspired mass timber construction, Centuria has said.

A spokesperson for the project said a response to the complaint rejection would be issued today.

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