Warren Cooper: Queenstown is being choked by council inaction


OPINION: The recent PechaKucha chit-chat evening at the Queenstown Memorial Centre was all about Queenstown’s town centre.

The 24-page brochure exhorted us to talk about its future.

We are offered a range of options: an alternative arterial route, passenger transport facilities, improved parking, new council office.

But these ideas come at the cost of a bulldozer through our existing council office and library, plus the Memorial Centre and rugby clubrooms – surely the biggest demolition job in the town’s history.

Feedback on Queenstown council’s town centre plan closes today, August 4. Have your say at: towncentreplan@qldc.govt.nz 

In order to provide a link through the town to Man Street, all that’s needed is the purchase of one property at Henry St, a left-turn into Shotover St and a right turn to lower Man St.

We first discussed this proposal in the year 2000.

An inner link from Frankton Road through Melbourne and Henry Sts to Gorge Rd would be the problem-solver.

Five successive councils have been jawboning. Countless reports have been a cost on ratepayers.

It’s been off-again, on-again, agreed and disagreed.

Thirty months or so back, the can was kicked down the road – to 2040! Council resolved to think about it in 15-20 years.

The fact is the councillors, mayors and Uncle Tom Cobley were all spooked by the idea, despite the Crown agency giving approval for further work on design and cost estimates.

I believe this link road is the key to the future of the town centre.

You can do all the PechaKucha-ing you care to, but you can’t ignore the hammerlock imposed on access and carparks.

You can’t keep ignoring the inevitable.

Sadly, we have a town centre rendered virtually unsustainable by council neglect.

In effect, it’s as good as it gets – unless we build the Shotover St bypass.

Our recent extraordinary increase in visitor numbers has provided choke-points which were foreshadowed yonks ago.

Now Hawthorne Drive is open, the new Kawarau Bridge is almost built and the BP corner is negotiable, Frankton’s outlook is bright.

However, unless we get a breakthrough at the corner of Henry St and Gorge Rd, and across Shotover St, for future traffic to Man St, much of our ambition for the Queenstown town centre is unrealisable.

Not that the council has it right with the two routes shown on the graphic, at right.

By building the link road further towards Stanley St, the council and the Crown could get away with purchasing just three properties in Henry and Stanley Sts.

It should be considerably cheaper than other routes. Plus it would be more in keeping with the nature of a village rather than a city.

Here we are with at least four, probably five, maybe six, prospective large hotel developers expressing their intention to invest in multi-storeyed buildings in Queenstown.

But right now, the roads which will service them, and the necessary infrastructure, such as nearby carparks and a transport hub, seem like pie in the sky.

Warren Cooper is a former Queenstown mayor and National cabinet minister