Regional council renews focus on resort

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Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult has welcomed the regional council’s renewed focus on the district.

The Otago Regional Council announced yesterday it was considering spending an extra $600,000 on public transport in the Wakatipu.

It was also considering re-establishing an office in the resort, stumping up for more research into lake snow and paying for “scoping work” for the restoration of Lake Hayes.

Boult says the announcements came after high-level discussions between the councils.

“I think that’s enormously positive.

“I’m particularly pleased to see them re-engaging with the Queenstown Lakes district area.

“The public transport and water quality issues are obviously very high on our agenda.”

There was a proposal for the councils to share offices, but Boult says his council does not have spare office space right now so “that might be a longer term goal”.

“Given the job that they have to do in our district, I think it’s essential that they have representation here.”

Though he did not know any details, University of Otago freshwater scientist Dr Marc Schallenberg, who has spent years researching lake snow and Lake Hayes, says the regional council’s funding promises are a positive sign.

He has provided the council with various cost estimates for lake snow work.

Schallenberg made national headlines and TV news bulletins last year with calls for more funding for lake snow work.

That might have helped prompt a change, he says, for what he calls a “really serious issue” for Queenstown and Wanaka.

“It wasn’t just me getting in the media, but it was a whole lot of people, I guess, asking the regional council what they’re going to do about it,” Schallenberg says.

The Friends of Lake Hayes group has lobbied the regional council for more monitoring of the lake, in particular, over many years.

Friends chairman Kerry Dunlop says the council had not discussed the scoping work directly with his group.

“It [the funding plan] means they’re expressing an awareness of the need to monitor Lake Hayes and study it in a bit more depth as to why we have these periodic algae blooms and what, if any, remedial action can be taken,” he says.

Submissions to the Otago Regional Council’s draft annual plan open on April 3 and close on May 12.

Otago Daily Times