Parting Shot: To the victor, not Vanessa, belong the spoils

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Digging the dirt: Queenstown mayor Jim Boult, left, and Transport Minister Simon Bridges turn the first sods on the eastern access road PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

OPINION: A mate says NZ Transport Agency’s confirmation of Queenstown’s eastern access road project in the first week of Jim Boult’s mayoralty reminded him of the Iran hostage crisis.

For 14 months, United States president Jimmy Carter forlornly tried to free 52 US hostages.

Then, about 20 minutes after Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, they were released.

But instead of Carter, we had mayor Vanessa van Uden.

Unlike ‘Lucky Jim’ Boult, she never got to be photographed turning a sod for the roading project – poor sod, Vanessa.

Then last week, the agency also confirmed it’s adding a western lane to the BP round-about to further relieve traffic congestion on the Frankton Flats.

Ironically, Boult – who campaigned on this issue – probably had zip to do with either announcement.

Doubtless, the last council would have pushed behind the scenes for the agency to get moving on both projects.

Then again, you have to ask why we’ve waited so long.

Two years ago, just before the first Queenstown International Marathon, my trainer and I ran over the gouged-out eastern access road around the airport – somehow never getting stopped.

Why couldn’t this road have been formed yonks ago, considering it’s supposed to relieve a third of the traffic round the BP roundabout?

For a while I thought it was because the council was at war with Remarkables Park developer Alastair Porter.

But then, just as she was leaving office, Van Uden blamed the delay on her own staff.

Whatever, the last council appeared to sit on its hands on this issue, despite traffic counts going through the roof.

Worse, it unbelievably postponed the proposed CBD bypass till the virtual never-never.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard ex-mayor and ex-cabinet minister Warren Cooper more impassioned than at a function for visiting National Party heavyweights two months ago.

He argued that Frankton traffic hold-ups threatened to undermine the resort’s tourism reputation. At the same function, his ears still ringing from Cooper’s blast, Transport Minister Simon Bridges gave a hand-on-heart promise that the government understood Queenstown’s traffic issues.

“I just don’t want to leave the people of Queenstown and the wider area with any doubt – we get it.”

Now we have our own government MP, Todd Barclay, taking the unusual but proactive step of petitioning the agency to four-lane the road between the BP and airport roundabouts – and remove roadside parking on the same stretch.

Despite Bridges’ bullishness, it seems the agency can’t be bossed around by the government, only persuaded.

Hopefully, our new council will also do its bit to lobby the agency.

But while adding more traffic capacity is well and good, perhaps the best solution is to make improvements to our public transport.

And if people still need to drive, give them incentives to carpool.

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt, US presidents have had 100-day action plans.

Well, so does our new mayor.

Encouragingly, his to-do list, released before the election, includes: “Start a process of scoping out what an ideal public transport system in Queenstown might look like.”

Over to you, President Jim.

scoop@scene.co.nz