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'New Gardens path means you don't need a new Hotops Rise path': Brian Fitzpatrick, left, and Mark Williams on new Queenstown Gardens paving

By PHILIP CHANDER

A proposal to replace Queenstown’s Hotops Rise pathway with a steep cycle path are being slammed by a former council planning manager and the trails trust’s CEO.

Councillors vote today on this plan to connect Park and Camp Streets which, like a lot of the town centre upgrade, has government funding behind it.

Council officials are recommending it go ahead, but others believe it’s a waste of money,  and the present also-steep pedestrian path should be retained.

Queenstown Trails Trust’s Mark Williams supports the council advocating for ‘active transport’.

However, he believes the new Hotops Rise plan makes no sense as council’s just widened and lessened the gradient of a nearby cycle/pedestrian path between the Gardens rotunda and the lakeside playground.

Its plan’s ‘‘an own-goal, like, shoot yourself in the wood’’, because cyclists coming from Frankton Track and Park St will use this upgraded route, he says.

‘‘Council should be patting themselves on the back, that’s a fantastic shared route.

‘‘Just leave [Hotops Rise] as it is, we don’t need another route.’’

If cyclists want to go to Camp St, they can go along the track beside Horne Creek, he says.

‘‘I would argue council needs to look at the connections that aren’t in place — like crossing the Shotover at Arthurs Point, a link from the Gardens to Frankton Track, along Park St, and Jack’s Point back to Frankton.’’

They’re all connections that’d actually encourage people to cycle, Williams says.

Former council planning boss and Park St resident Brian Fitzpatrick cites two fatal flaws with council’s plan.

As a cycle path, ‘‘the steepness is three times the standard for new tracks, and it’s unsafe on the downhill’’.

‘‘Will this new route encourage people to use active travel?

‘‘Of course it won’t, it’s as steep as the [first part of] the hill going up to Fernhill.’’

Fitzpatrick’s also against the proposed removal of 42 trees for the new path, and particularly four native beeches at the top — although council’s proposing a replanting programme.

He notes Hotop Rise is named after former mayor and prolific tree planter Lewis Hotop, who’s considered New Zealand’s ‘father of Arbour Day’.

‘‘It seems to me this gives Hotops Rise and the trees along it an even stronger and more special cultural and heritage association with the town,’’ he says.

‘‘These beech trees that Hotop himself may have planted should be kept.’’

Tree removal ‘illogical thinking’

Queenstown arborist Jimmy Carling says council’s justification for the removal of more than 40 healthy trees near the Queenstown Gardens doesn’t stack up.

City Hall planned to remove 14 trees, including six established Douglas firs from Hotops Rise, to create a new cycle path, but in a report to today’s full council meeting, ‘‘owner interface manager’’ Gabrielle Tabron says if those 14 are chopped, an other 28 have to come down, too — including another 14 Douglas firs — due to the ‘‘increased wind load’’.

Tabron says there was a meeting in late March with Friends of the Gardens, at which it was agreed an alternative alignment would be looked at to try to reduce the number of trees requiring removal.

But council’s sticking to its guns.

Carling says there are times when healthy trees need to be removed, particularly when it’s required for critical infrastructure works.

But in the case of the Hotops trees, ‘‘there are already paths through the Gardens that are fit for purpose’’.

‘‘When all the dust settles I think we would look back on both the Brecon Street gums [removed in October to make way for a four-metre-wide path] and Hotops Rise tree removals as a period of significant regression and illogical thinking,’’ he says.

— TRACEY ROXBURGH