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Council’s approach to hotel ‘visionary’

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

Carterton District Council is being asked to consider selling a 9700m2 plot of land for just $1 to attract an investor to build a hotel next to its events centre.

The proposal, set to be discussed at today’s extraordinary council meeting, asks councillors to authorise its chief executive to seek funding from the Government’s provincial growth fund to prepare a case to investigate the feasibility for a 100-plus bed hotel in Carterton.

The site for the proposed hotel is used for the council’s depot and adjoins the events centre on Holloway St.

The proposal stems from discussions during the Economic Development Advisory Group’s meeting on November 28 which determined a hotel in Carterton aligned with the visitor and tourist sector of the strategy, as well as fitting the requirements of the PGF.

The report says that a lack of accommodation in Wairarapa is preventing the events centre from attracting conferences and major events to the region.

This is despite an arrangement with Copthorne Hotel in Solway, whose rooms cannot accommodate more than one large event per weekend.

Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said it was about foresight and allowing for future growth.

“At the moment, if the events centre gets a conference, the guests stay at the Copthorne, then the Copthorne can’t get a conference and that’s not growth.”

Carterton District Council chief executive Jane Davis said it wasn’t about generating a higher income for the events centre, but about attracting more “vibrancy and activity in Carterton”.

“It’s not about the events themselves but bringing people to Wairarapa to discover Wairarapa, and encouraging them to visit again,” Davis said.

She said building a hotel aligned with the PGF because it will attract more visitors and jobs to the region.

Davis said the council didn’t have much to contribute to the project in the way of funds.

Although it would ideally sell the land at a commercial rate, there was a recommendation that council considers selling it for $1 if that meant attracting an investor.

Davis said a $1 sale would be a sign of “good faith” as an investor in the project.

Hancock called the council’s approach “visionary”.

“Carterton District Council has seen a way to attract a developer by removing costs such as land cost.”

According to Destination Wairarapa, the region needs increased accommodation capacity to deal with medium to large conferences and events, with Copthorne Hotel being the only 100-plus hotel in the region.

According to its figures, Wairarapa had a year-on-year guest nights growth of seven per cent in the year ending September 2018.

Visitor spending for the same period was at $190 million, up from $134 million four years ago and ahead of Destination Wairarapa’s target of $212 million by 2025.

The council will vote today on whether to investigate the feasibility of the hotel, seek funding from the PGF and whether to make the land available to an investor at a minimal cost.