New councillors must hit the ground running


OPINION: So, elections are on Saturday, October 8.

A bouquet and a brickbat for our departing council.

A bunch of flowers on the partial completion of our district’s sewage treatment system. We are told it will be safe to swim in – your Christmas present from City Hall.

You’ve gotta be grateful for that.

But now the brickbat and a bit of history on transport and parking.

In 2001, the incoming council was greeted by:

A fully-sealed Crown Range Road;

A fully-sealed road to Glenorchy;

Plus a fully-upgraded Queenstown to Frankton road, with underground reticulation.

Alongside that was the recommendation that Melbourne and Henry Streets form the main entrance to the Ballarat St carpark.

The outgoing council had acquired and developed all the carparking which now serves the CBD.

So what’s happened since?

Beyond the purchase of several buildings, what have five successive councils achieved?

Given that more than 5000 days have elapsed, the answer is: absolutely sweet bugger-all.

Zilch, zero, sat on their hands or suffered from brain freeze – an army of Rip Van Winkles.

Moreover, I’ve heard insufficient evidence that the aspirants seeking elected office are dedicated to the removal of the massive roadblocks we will confront – parking chaos and traffic hold-ups – if urgent action is not taken.

I fear that, if elected, they will simply kick the can down the road. It’s not only pregnant women who need to be assured the road to Frankton is negotiable 24 hours a day without the need to pack a cut lunch.

Furthermore, candidates have been conspicuous by their absence of opinion on this vital cog in our transport infrastructure.

On this issue, indeed, they have been a waste of space. Best described as perfunctory or done superficially, only as a matter of routine, dull or indifferent.

Here’s my report card on the three parties charged with dealing with the issue:

Queenstown’s council: More Rip Van Winkle. Fifteen years is a long sleep.

Otago Regional Council: Absent without leave. Its interest in the area west of Cromwell is virtually non-existent. Having closed its local office its only function is to receive the rates we pay.

NZ Transport Agency: If you rattle its cage it respond. Signs are it is on the job, with traffic lights installed, Kawarau Falls Bridge under construction, recent visits by Minister Simon Bridges and the kick-starting of the proposed eastern access road.

(The road was mysteriously lost after being buried in the bureaucracy. This disappearance mirrors Queenstown council’s Future Link Transport and Parking Strategy tabled in 2005, which promptly got shoved in the too-hard basket.)

A friendly message for those successful on October 8.

You are not there to make up the numbers. Sitting on your hands for 15 years waiting for bureaucrats to lead you is not on.

Half of them have only been in town for five minutes and may be elsewhere in a few months.

Our region is the tourism magnet of the South Pacific. It deserves better from its council.

Warren Cooper is an ex-cabinet minister and former mayor of Queenstown