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A decades long-discussion about how best to develop Wanaka’s town centre has re-opened.

Between 50 and 60 people met last week to thrash out ideas for improving the central business district over the next 30 years.

The Wanaka Community Hub meeting was attended by Ignite Wanaka, the town’s chamber of commerce, which has at least 300 to 400 members.

Urban designer Garth Falconer facilitated the discussion.

Wanaka’s original village is bounded by Ardmore, Brownston and McDougall Sts and includes Pembroke Park and the Upper Clutha Showgrounds.

Over recent decades, competing commercial areas have been developed at Anderson Heights, Ballantyne Rd, Three Parks and Northlake.

Conversations about a cohesive town development strategy began in 2002, when the Queenstown Lakes District Council consulted on a community vision for Wanaka 2020.

A Wanaka Town Centre Strategy was released in 2009, when private developers were beginning to open up greenfields at Three Parks and Northlake.

In 2016, the need for a cohesive town centre was raised again when the council and Wanaka Community Board adopted a three-stage lakefront development plan, which is now under way.

In 2018, with growth unabated, consultant Stantec released an integrated transport programme business case and town centre proposal.

When the Wanaka Town Centre Master Plan emerged in 2019, the Wanaka Community Board refused to endorse it and called instead for detailed investigations into the town’s transport network.

Mr Falconer said last Friday’s meeting went “really well”.

“There was a lot of interest. It is a response to the concern voiced for quite a long time that Wanaka hasn’t got an adopted town centre master plan,” he said.

While the council had recently put out a district-wide spatial plan, this was very high level work and did not contain much detail about the town centre and did not address specific challenges presented by tourism growth, Mr Falconer said.

Some of the core ideas from the earlier work were re-examined. The discussion also included ideas on linking the town centre to the lakefront and consolidating links around town.

Engaging with landowners and property developers would be important to create a high-quality pedestrian experience, Mr Falconer said.

Some people had suggested hotel or high density residential development could be possible in the town centre, he added.

Ignite Wanaka chairman Andrew Howard could not be contacted for comment before The News publication deadline.

Mr Falconer said a working group would distil ideas from the meeting and bring them back to the wider community for more feedback, before presenting information to the Wanaka Community Board.

“I think there was a lot of excitement. This is the way to go forward, to get a community-driven plan,” he said.

Mr Falconer’s company, Reset Urban Design, worked for the council on the Wanaka lakefront project.