Warren Cooper: Queenstown’s in the grip of an a-park-alypse

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OPINION: Like many throughout the district I’ve been watching our council during its first six months.

Things are happening – at long last!

We have our new traffic lights, where you can make life-long friends while waiting for a green light.

The new Hawthorne Drive will soon be completed.

There are roadworks and the start of double-laning near Frankton’s BP roundabout.

The new Kawarau Bridge will be our Christmas present.

Plus we have a mayor busking for his $2 per fare buses – a good initiative but not the whole answer.

So my occasional column in Mountain Scene, usually provoked by various local activities, is somewhat limited.

Apart from one glaring omission, that is.

I’m not sure whether to describe it as A-PARK-ALYPSE or CAR-TASTROPHIC but it is a serious condition which, unless given immediate attention, will cause further deterioration to downtown Queenstown as a magnet which attracts both locals and visitors.

In 2001 we were, as a council, tracking along pretty well in regard to providing carparking.

We were, in my belief, future-proofed.

I recollect insisting 56 carparks would be or should be provided on-site by a downtown hotel being built – at the change of council none were.

Since then, insofar as the council is concerned, it has all been downhill.

For 16 years carparking has been consigned to the ‘too hard’ basket.

Nowadays our residential streets resemble parking lots, chock-a-block with cars, boats and trailers.

What a clutter.

And exacerbated by the number of people in cars trawling the streets searching for a park.

What was the very abundant parking resource has been frittered away by successive councils’ neglect.

The subsequent spilling into the streets of cars caused by conversions of garages into Airbnb rooms has exacerbated the chaos. The present council has inherited an anti-car, anti-carpark policy of five successive councils.

This missive is not a bitch about our present council.

It’s aimed at the 2001 to 2016 mob who collectively failed to provide one single additional carpark and took away more than a few.

What was future-proofed has dissipated.

Amazingly, both Queenstown’s council and the Chamber of Commerce, like Rip Van Winkle, went to sleep at the wheel.

If they had deliberately tried to sabotage the commercial future of Queenstown they were on the right track.

The growing mental barrier about access to downtown Queenstown should put shivers down the spines of our retailers.

“We don’t want to go into town now; haven’t been in there for months”, is the growing mantra of an increasing number in our surrounding area.

It’s time to remove the barriers.

The solution is simple, essential, doable and an urgent priority.

  • Approve and proceed with Inner Links
  • Connect Melbourne and Henry Streets to a transport hub at Ballarat St
  • Convert Warren Park into a carpark
  • Convert the former motor camp at upper Man St into a carpark

It is no longer appropriate to hold council land for a convention centre or hotels – at least four prospective hotel developers have announced they are to build.

Nor is it sensible to ring-fence most of the Gorge Road area for a special housing area.

A ghetto-like approach is fraught with possible difficulties.

Sure the effort is laudable but a mix of housing is preferable.

Warren Cooper is a former Queenstown mayor and National cabinet minister