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Subsidy reduction: The Crown Range Rd, between Queenstown and Wanaka. PICTURE: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR

By MARK PRICE

Queenstown Lakes ratepayers will have to dig a little deeper this year to pay for  maintenance of the Crown Range Road.

A big reduction in subsidy signalled by the NZ Transport Agency six or seven years ago takes effect this financial year.

Maintaining the high-altitude link between Wanaka and Queenstown cost ratepayers $227,009 last year.

But a council spokesman says this year the council’s net operating costs for the Crown Range Rd are budgeted at $620,849 — to be covered by rates.

The increase is due to NZTA’s decision to reduce its 90% funding for maintenance of ‘‘special purpose roads’’ — such as the Crown Range and Glenorchy roads — to the 51% it contributes to ‘‘standard local roads’’.

The Crown Range Rd is defined as the stretch from Eastbourne Rd, on the Queenstown side, to Cardrona on the Wanaka side.

A council spokesman tells Mountain Scene the maintenance issues with the Crown Range are similar to the rest of the roading network, with resurfacing required about every 10 to 15 years.

‘‘Given its altitude, winter maintenance (gritting, spraying de-icing agent, and clearing snow and grit) costs more on the Crown Range Rd than most roads in the network.

‘‘As part of routine resurfacing, the rest of the asphalt over the summit that was not replaced this year will require replacing in the next three to five years.’’

There are also some minor safety improvements to be made, such as installing more guard rails, improve ments to some chain bays, and slope stabilisation.

Asked if the council had considered pushing for the road to become a state highway, the spokesman says that’s an option that has been discussed.

‘‘There are benefits and disadvantages.

‘‘As a local road, QLDC would have more say over the level of service, but at a financial cost.’’

ed@scene.co.nz