Otago: Central Otago
Thu 24 Nov 2016 by Gareth Kiernan in Regional Hotspots

This article is part of the Regional Hotspots report. To find out more about the report and other hotspots, click here


  • Population growth 2013-2023: 29% (5,880 people)
  • Substantial population increases in Arrowtown, Wanaka and Cromwell reflect population pressures and less affordable housing in Queenstown.
  • Major developments are planned in Wanaka, including the mixed-use Three Parks area, other retail, services and residential developments.
  • More affordable accommodation makes Cromwell an increasingly attractive area to live for both retirees and Queenstown and local workers.
  • High growth areas in Queenstown are concentrated in the east and south with 700 residential sections at Jack’s Point and 2,000 lots planned for Hanley’s Farm.
  • Ensuring that a significant chunk of development work in Cromwell and surrounding areas focus on affordable housing is key to avoiding the problems that have arisen in Queenstown.

Of all our hotspots, Central Otago has by far the lowest population density. Within the region, it would be easy to pick out Queenstown as being the focal point for growth, especially given the 8.7% growth in the town’s population over the last two years. But focusing only on Queenstown would mean missing out on other towns within the region that are enjoying a surge in popularity in tandem with Queenstown’s ongoing expansion as a lifestyle and tourism destination.

In fact, the 2006-2013 inter-census period was the first time since 1956-1961 that Queenstown’s population growth (10.3% over the seven years) was not more than double nationwide population growth (5.3%). In terms of growth rates, Queenstown’s increase in population has been overshadowed by Wanaka, Cromwell, and Arrowtown since the 2001 census. And even as Queenstown’s population growth has accelerated again over the last three years, racing ahead of Statistics NZ’s high population projections, the population pressures and shortage of affordable housing in the town have meant that the number of people living in surrounding areas has risen substantially as well.

Wanaka provides a different feel to the more internationally focused Queenstown, and is appealing increasingly to New Zealanders as a more low-key and less expensive alternative to live in, or for holidays or retirement. The town has a number of major developments planned, including the Northlake residential subdivision (1,600 houses) and the mixed-use Three Parks area. Within these developments there are plans for a sports facility and swimming pool, as well as retail space that will encompass larger stores. Commercial and industrial space is also expected to be included as part of a business park within the Three Peaks development.

Cromwell offers a more affordable alternative to either Queenstown or Wanaka. The town’s population shrank between 1986 and 1996 as workers on the Clyde Dam moved away, but has surged over the last 10-15 years with employment opportunities offered by the horticulture and viticulture industries, as well as spill-over effects of the tourism boom in Queenstown. Expanding education facilities reflect the town’s increasing population, and it is also attracting more retirees. As it grows, the town aims to make sure that a significant chunk of development work is focused on affordable housing, avoiding the problems that have arisen in Queenstown, in particular, in trying to accommodate lowerpaid service workers within the area.

In terms of Queenstown’s growth, we have focused our attention on the southern and eastern fringes of the town. Lake Hayes Estate is already well established and there has been substantial development in the neighbouring Shotover Country area. South of the Kawarau River, there is ongoing development at Jack’s Point (about 700 sections), including proposals for a retail and visitor-focused village with a hotel. This area is bordered by plans for medium-density residential development at Hanley’s Farm (over 2,000 lots). On State Highway 6, the upgrade of the Kawarau Falls Bridge from one to two lanes will be complete by late 2017 and improve the connectivity of the area to Frankton and Queenstown. This project will be complemented by the construction of the Eastern Access Route past Queenstown Airport, which will further alleviate the traffic bottleneck at the junction of State Highways 6 and 6A.

"Major developments are planned in Wanaka, including the mixed-use Three Parks area, other retail, services and residential developments."

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