Council’s road offload

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Reduced road subsidies might mean the government takes over two of the most scenic tourist roads in the country.

Handing over the Crown Range and Glenorchy roads might result in savings for Queenstown ratepayers but there’s a warning road quality might suffer.

At the moment, Queenstown’s council owns the Crown Range and Glenorchy ‘special purpose roads’.

But maintenance is mostly funded by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) - at 90 per cent and 100 per cent, respectively.

After a national review of road funding, NZTA has decided the roads will lose their special status - and subsidies will be cut to 51 per cent over a number of years.

Queenstown council’s draft long-term plan, which is out for consultation, says the council’s considering offloading the roads to NZTA. The plan says: “Although this would save the council money in maintenance, it may also result in changes to the levels of service (i.e. quality of roads or number of closure days) on those roads.”

Budgets for subsidised spending on the roads this year are $927,059 for Glenorchy and $563,972 for the Crown Range.

NZTA southern regional planning and investment manager Bruce Richards says in a statement the council responded to the coming cuts by suggesting the two roads become state highways.

“We are open to that future conversation and both parties are gathering factual evidence to support a constructive discussion.”

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden says NZTA might be interested in taking over the roads.

“We’ve said we’re happy to have that discussion with you - and what was in the long-term plan was to raise the profile in the community that there could be changes coming.”

She doesn’t see NZTA taking over the roads as a threat – in fact there could be savings to ratepayers.

“I don’t see it as a huge threat to us,” Van Uden says. “The Crown Range in particular is a high-maintenance road with a lot of snow-clearing over winter.”

In response to the potential changes, the Glenorchy Community Association has formed a roads subcommittee.

david@scene.co.nz