Queenstown’s award-winning Millbrook Resort is celebrating a major milestone — taking the next step towards developing a neighbouring farm into a new golf course interspersed with high-end residential homes. The development — with an estimated cost of $45m — has been three years in the planning. In 2014 the Overseas Investment Office approved Millbrook’s purchase of 67 hectares of the former Dalgleish Farm land on its western boundary.
Two years of discussions followed around the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s District Plan review as it applies to Millbrook Resort’s existing and future zoning, and a Plan Change hearing was held in February this year.
On October 18 the QLDC notified its approval of an extension to the existing Millbrook Resort Zone subject to appeals. The appeal period closed on 30 November with no third-party appeals believed to have been submitted.
Millbrook itself has appealed one narrow aspect of a solitary rule which is expected to be resolved quickly. Once resolved, the new ‘District Plan Chapter 43 – Millbrook’ will become operative.
The new development will add nine new golf holes to Millbrook’s current world-class 27-hole offering, meaning two full 18-hole courses will operate when it opens.
Site clearance is scheduled to start in early 2018, including a raft of ecological and landscape enhancements. Once the new golf course is constructed and ‘grown-in’ the aim is for it to be open for play over the summer of 2021/22.
Introducing a 36-hole format at Millbrook will be a ‘game changer’ for the resort in more ways than one. Millbrook Director of Golf Brian Spicer said the additional nine holes of golf on the farm land would effectively add 100% golf capacity.
“It will mean we have two fully operational 18-hole courses that can be played simultaneously for minimal additional maintenance costs” he said.
“It’s fantastic news because it will cater not only for our Millbrook Country Club members and locals, but for the significant growth opportunities for high-yielding golf tourism in New Zealand, particularly here in the Queenstown Lakes area.
“Our plan is to run one private members’ course and one public course, changing the holes played on a daily basis.
“That adds to the exclusivity of our golf club offering for our 480 family memberships, and alternating it will keep it interesting for members and be an incentive for visiting golfers to stay an additional night and play the other course.”
Millbrook Director of Property and Development Ben O’Malley said the re-zoning and notification process had been “extremely comprehensive” and the resort was delighted to have reached this milestone moment.
“We’ve worked very closely with the QLDC to reach this point in the planning process and they’ve been pragmatic enough to see the wider benefits of extending the Millbrook Resort Zone, for which we’re very grateful,” he said.
“Our membership base continues to grow with the continued success of our building programme within the existing Millbrook Zone and with the 42 homes that are planned for the new land.”
The news has also been welcomed by Golf Tourism New Zealand (GTNZ) Executive Director Ryan Brandeburg. GTNZ had been tasked with growing the value of inbound golf tourism from $145M to $223M by the end of 2016.
“I’m happy to report that we currently sit well in excess of $300M annually, and Queenstown has proven to be an incredible draw for international visitors,” said Ryan.
“The town captures a significant amount of the 32,000 international visitor rounds played across New Zealand’s marquee courses in 2016, and happily many of those visitors are lovers of wine too, which Queenstown’s pretty good at!”
Mr Brandeburg said the timing of the new course was “perfect”, with the quality seen across Millbrook’s existing 27-holes, The Hills golf course and other courses in the region meaning the destination was poised to be a drawcard for international golfers for years to come.
“However with competitor markets on the rise, such as the 25 golf courses under construction in Vietnam, we need to continue investing in our golf product to be competitive in the multi-billion dollar international golf tourism space.”
Mr O’Malley said the stunningly unique topography of the Dalgleish farm land provided a fantastic opportunity for the golf course designers, as well as lending itself to development of two geographically-separated residential neighbourhoods.
The large upper plateau contains 24 sites hidden from view from Malaghans Road and other public places while boasting elevated panoramic views over fairways and pastoral lands to the wider basin. The lower slopes are home to a further 18 sites with north-facing outlooks over an enhanced Mill Stream and the last of the stunning new golf holes.
The golf course layout is the brainchild of experienced golf course designers Greg Turner and Scott Macpherson who designed Millbrook’s new Coronet Nine in 2007/8. The new holes will combine with the Coronet Nine to make an 18-hole course.
The new holes make the most of the beautifully ice sculptured valleys and dramatically undulating land form which allows for what is believed to be the highest golf in the region, if not New Zealand
Former NZ golf pro Greg Turner said much of the new nine would occupy “perhaps the most spectacular landscape at Millbrook.”
“With the combination of the Arrow and Coronet nines receiving such universal acclaim from the NZ Open field this year, to be able to extend the Coronet experience to a full 18 is an exciting prospect indeed,” he said.
Parts of Mill Stream will be widened to create larger waterways, and other areas will be retained as over 20 hectares of working farmland, featuring common grazing land and an historic woolshed that will be rebuilt and relocated to a paddock adjoining Malaghans Road.
The original 1860’s farmhouse will be retained with some sympathetic additions, and an existing visible irrigation pipe, part of the Arrow Irrigation Company network, will be relocated and buried underground. An irrigation reservoir and pumphouses will also be built on site.
Mr O’Malley said the new development would retain a rural, agrarian style thanks to the rustic open farm areas scattered around the course, including the high hillocks that form a natural western geographical ‘end point’ to the resort.
“As a local response to the geographical conditions, planting on the upper plateau will be limited to native species, and our design guidelines refined to reflect the location of these homes. The landscape and architecture on the lower slopes will be a continuation of the established Millbrook style of development.
“So for those living there or playing the course it will have its own unique look, style and feel, from rich bird and fish life in restored wetlands and deeply-incised rock walled valleys to the montane upper plateau where grazed hillocks transition into manicured fairways and carefully-designed residential areas.
“We can’t wait to start work on this and bring it to life after so many years in the planning.
“As one of the largest employers in the region this new development will ensure that Millbrook Resort continues to make a very significant contribution to the local and national economy.”