6 Jul 2018

Steampunk capital Ōāmaru floats luxury hotel on water

1:13 pm on 6 July 2018

A multi million dollar luxury floating hotel could be the next attraction for the steampunk capital of New Zealand.

Concept for the floating hotel.

Concept for the floating hotel. Photo: Supplied

Based in Ōāmaru Harbour, it will be the first of its kind in the country.

But some locals are worried about the impact it could have on rare local wildlife.

The 25 room, four-and-a-half star hotel has been generating a lot of excitement in a town that is facing a shortage of high-end accommodation.

A developer who has chosen to remain anonymous approached the Ōāmaru Licensing Trust with a plan to use his barge to house the hotel.

Trust general manager Cathy Maaka said it was the type of accommodation that would be a drawcard for visitors.

The trust has already approached Stufkens and Chambers Architects to design the hotel - and steampunk-inspired features have not been ruled out.

The trust was working on a business case with final costings to present to the Waitaki District Council, Mrs Maaka said.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said the proposal would boost accommodation in the region.

"At the moment we have got limited bed numbers in that high-end area," Ms Munro said.

The district should aim for 100 additional rooms in the high-end sector in the next five years, she said.

With the council's proposal to seek UNESCO Global Geopark status later this year and increasing tourist numbers, Ms Munro said accommodation needed to be a focus for the future.

While there is no timeframe for the hotel proposal to get off the ground - or on the water - its backers are keen to get the ball rolling.

But the proposal has not got universal support.

University of Otago paleoecologist Nic Rawlence said the project could disturb the nearby rare Otago shags breeding colony and trigger a mass nest abandonment from the nearby Sumpter Wharf.

"What would happen is the birds would run round the colony, crush the eggs, abandon the breeding colony that if we lose, there's a real danger that the Otago shag will go into an extinction vortex and we won't actually have the species around in the future," Dr Rawlence said.

Developments needed to enhance or preserve the wildlife to prevent any disturbance to the colony, he said.

Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said the proposed hotel would extend the reputation Ōāmaru has as an interesting and quirky place to visit and stay.

People visited Ōāmaru, but then stayed elsewhere because of the limited high-end accommodation range, Mr Kircher said.

He hoped the hotel proposal would keep tourists in the town.