OPINION: A belated Happy New Year to you all and despite our recent appalling weather I trust you have had a great Christmas and New Year.
Four months into the new council’s term, the training wheels are off, our committees are going about their business and there is a productive relationship between elected members and staff.
These include making visible progress on improving traffic flows – arguably the issue that affects every person in this community the most, with the cost of housing a close second.
I was delighted to see some recent progress on Frankton traffic and transport issues.
The completion of Hawthorne Drive (eastern access road) by the end of December will assist enormously, and we will have a temporary link via Glenda Drive open by this winter.
In addition, the development of a park-and-ride service at the airport will enable the NZ Transport Agency to remove parking from State Highway 6 along the airport frontage, while giving locals another legitimate parking option when they travel.
The bonus is this will ease congestion and safety concerns.
Still to come is a significant enhancement to public transport which we expect to be able to progress around mid-year.
I am aiming for a public transport system that is so good, so frequent and so affordable that it becomes the default method of moving around the district.
Queenstown council’s part is to encourage public transport operator Otago Regional Council to upgrade from a horse-and-cart to a race horse – and use the spurs if we need to.
I have no criticism of Ritchies, the current operator, who are keen to work with us.
The ultimate traffic enhancement, of course, is to make State Highway 6 two lanes in both directions all the way from the Five Mile to the new Kawarau Bridge, along with the redevelopment of the BP roundabout.
NZTA has undertaken to share its plans for this area and there is general agreement that the work needs to take place much sooner than 2020, as originally agreed.
On the subject of future planning, let me reiterate: there not will be a ratepayer-funded convention centre built during the term of this council. The council is united on this.
There has been a lot of interest lately over the possibility of a permanent liquor ban in down-town Queenstown.
This was mostly triggered by a “drinking” event on the Village Green in early December that left a hell of a mess, and a similar happening just before Christmas.
My wife Karen and I experienced the second event first-hand. It wouldn’t have enhanced the pleasure of an evening in town for anyone.
Contrast that experience with New Year’s Eve, when a liquor ban was in force and downtown was a pleasant place to be.
As you will have read in Mountain Scene, we have held discussions with the police and representatives of downtown businesses over what action, if any, the council may take.
Clearly a complete liquor ban is one option but personally I’m reluctant to promote that until we look at other options.
One thing is for sure though – a repeat of those two performances prior to Christmas won’t be tolerated by this community – or by me.
Finally, on the council’s enforcement of the freedom camping bylaw, we cannot allow freedom campers to disrespect the environment we value so highly.
Jim Boult is the Queenstown Lakes mayor