The long awaited draft Spatial Plan has been released for public viewing.
The Plan states it, “provides a longterm framework for managing growth. It directs growth in a way that will make positive changes to the environment, housing, access to jobs and opportunities, the wellbeing of the community and the experience of visitors. It recognises that solving these challenges will require central and local government working together with the community and private sector.” Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, “growth is expected to return, and the number of residents, jobs and visitors will approximately double over the next 30 years, requiring about 17,000 new homes in the area” (my emphasis).
This is the context in which government designated that the Queenstown Lakes should form part of the Urban Growth Agenda, requiring spatial planning. The result is the Whaiora Grow Well Partnership, a new Urban Growth Partnership between government, Kāi Tahu, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
The Plan reviews the context, highlighting the constraints and challenges posed by growth. Its starting point is the status quo and the various developmental plans already prepared or in the pipeline. It usefully provides a conceptual framework to pull those disparate pieces of work together into a coherent plan.
Where it falls short, however, is in not thinking outside the box. For example, the recent Town Centre and Frankton Masterplans are treated as key inputs (both plans were pre-2020, pre-COVID); the Strategies described and the Priority initiatives to be advanced by the partnership’s joint work programme take the detail of the Masterplans as a given. No alternative is offered: where is the ‘reset’?
Similarly, on our favourite topic, Airport growth, the Spatial Plan assumes that both Wanaka and Queenstown Airports will remain in their existing locations. The possible development of a Tarras airport is simply treated as highlighting the commercial interest in the development and delivery of capacity to serve the wider region. No attempt is made to evaluate the implications of potential alternative land use of Frankton Flats which might have been expected of a Spatial Plan with a 2050 horizon.
As for the growth in demand for commercial air services, the Plan simply says this “will continue as Queenstown Lakes and the wider region continues to develop, and it is important that the level of service continues to support this.” So, the Queenstown Airport Corporation’s demand-led model is left untouched. (In other words, the airlines will determine growth in passenger numbers.) Again, no ‘reset’.
None of the 108 pages of the Plan quells the concern that allowing for a doubling in the “number of residents, jobs and visitors … over the next 30 years, requiring about 17,000 new homes in the area” is compatible with the Queenstown Lakes remaining both an iconic destination (a central part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s tourism offering) and a highly sought-after location as a place to live. Is such growth environmentally sustainable, both now and in the face of future imperatives of the climate emergency?
You have until the 19th of this month to make your views known: go to https://letstalk.qldc.govt.nz/spatial-plan