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Limited visibility of billionaire Peter Thiel’s proposed Wānaka lodge cited

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A proposed luxury lodge overlooking Lake Wānaka would be visible from only a few short sections of a public walking track, the Environment Court has heard.

Of the 3.6km of the Wānaka-Glendhu Bay Track that runs along the edge of the Damper Bay farm block, only four sections with a total length of 189m would have views of the lodge’s buildings, Second Star Ltd counsel Mike Holm said in his open ing submissions today.

The development of the 193ha site, bought by United States billionaire Peter Thiel in 2015, would be accompanied by ecological restoration, including the retirement of more than half the block from grazing, the restoration of wetlands and native planting over half the site.

It would be “cloaked in natural vegetation with the built form embedded in the landscape”.

Second Star Ltd is appealing a decision by a Queenstown Lakes District Council independent resource consent panel in 2022 to refuse resource consent for the lodge.

It was the first day of the appeal hearing in Queenstown, which is being heard by Judge Prudence Steven and commissioner Mark Mabin.

An artist's impression of the proposed lodge.
An artist’s impression of the proposed lodge.

Holm said the only matters in contention were the visual and landscape effects when the proposal was viewed from the track, and no party had challenged the “significant ecological, tourism and economic benefits’” the lodge would have for Wānaka and the wider district.

Second Star consultant landscape architect Tony Milne said although the site sat within two outstanding natural landscape (ONL) areas, the proposal would not adversely affect the existing rural pastoral landscape character.

The test for whether development was appropriate in ONL was whether physical changes to the appearance of the land were “reasonably difficult to see”, Milne said.

In his assessment, the proposal met the test.

The company wants to develop the 330m-long, grass-roofed complex about 7km from the Wānaka town centre.

An artist's impression of spectacular views from the proposed lodge development for Peter Thiel at Lake Wānaka.
An artist’s impression of spectacular views from the proposed lodge development for Peter Thiel at Lake Wānaka.

Modelled on other luxury lodges throughout New Zealand, such as Queenstown’s Rosewood Matakauri lodge, it would consist of 11 guest accommodation units, an owner’s residence, a meditation building and a “back of house” building.

It would accommodate up to 30 guests and support between 15 and 30 staff.

The Upper Clutha Environmental Society and the Longview Environmental Trust, which both oppose the development, are participating in the appeal as interested parties.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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