Millions at risk

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A $24 million pot of infrastructure funding could disappear into thin air if housing developments aren’t approved for Ladies Mile.

The clock is ticking for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which would provide millions of dollars in interest-free loans to the council to support major infrastructure pro-jects at Ladies Mile.

Those infrastructure projects would include moves to ease traffic congestion, a constant bugbear for Queenstown commuters.

But the money hinges on housing developments being green-lit in the area, and if none are approved by mid-to-late next year, it will be withdrawn.

Three Ladies Mile housing proposals will be canvassed at today’s council meeting, all of which have sparked an outcry from Lake Hayes Estate and Shotover Country residents.

Council property and infrastructure chief engineer Ulrich Glasner says the loan and funding agreement signed last year will be cancelled if no development is approved within two years.

The fund was announced by Housing Minister Phil Twyford last August.

It was expected to bring forward the development of about 1100 houses within six years.

Glasner says some of the funding would be pegged for transport infrastructure improvements, including a roundabout at Howards Drive, an underpass to get from the northern side of Ladies Mile to the southern side, and bus stops.

If the funding disappears, those projects would have to go through other funding bids with NZTA and the regional council, he says.

“If council would agree to a special housing area (SHA), it would be a minimum of 24-30 months until the first house is built, which would give us time to make some increased public transport, a direct bus lane from Ladies Mile to town, and education.”

The three proposed SHAs along Ladies Mile up for discussion today are 423 units across two adjacent SHAs on the northern side, and the Laurel Hills development, a decision on which was deferred from the last council meeting.

Submissions on the Ladies Mile developments were made public this week.

More than 170 were received by the council, almost all of which were overwhelmingly opposed to the developments.

Council staff prepared a report for councillors on the cumulative effects of the three developments, with a major focus on traffic and transport.

It reveals a range of projects are in the works, including a direct bus service from Ladies Mile to the CBD, a Ladies Mile park and ride, a priority bus lane, and a preferred active travel network.

A Shotover Bridge bus gate is also being explored, which would involve traffic lights to give priority to high-occupancy vehicles where lanes merge.

“If more dwellings were going to be built in Ladies Mile, then the above initiatives would need to be in place before the houses are built, and the demand on the traffic network begins to increase,” the report states.

Councillor Alexa Forbes says it’s not a matter of if development will occur along Ladies Mile, but to what scale.

“It will happen, there’s no way it won’t happen,” she says.

Most of Queenstown’s infrastructure has been “just in time infrastructure”, which is not what people want, she says.

“This is a way of doing things much faster.”

While the Housing Infrastructure Fund was not free cash and has to be paid back, it would be money up front to get projects moving before development actually occurred, she says.

Forbes says there’s “huge pressure” to get something done before the clock runs out, both on the fund and on SHA legislation, which will wind up in September.

“Given more time, we might have been able to bring the community along in a better way, but we don’t have that,” she says.

“It’s not a lovely process, it cuts a lot of the community out.”

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz