Drivers demand action


Frustrated drivers are demanding people in power push the accelerator on changes to solve the ski resort’s snowballing traffic problem.

Every rush hour now, long tailbacks snake away from Frankton’s BP roundabout in all directions.

The routes through town are just as bad and even the rat runs like McBride and Hallenstein Streets shine to the glare of brake lights.

Driving instructor Dan Gerard’s on the roads all day.

“I’ve more or less had to cancel the 4pm-5pm [lesson] - we just can’t go anywhere,” he says.

“The town is coming to a standstill in multiple bottlenecks. The rush hour is three hours in the afternoon, 3.30pm-6.30pm.

“And we haven’t even got into the busy winter season yet, it’s just going to get worse.”

Gerard says Queenstown’s council and the NZ Transport Agency have been “extremely slow to react”.

“They need to take some decisive action, grow some balls and just make some changes as soon as possible.”

Queenstown Transport Governance Group meets next week to discuss the future of traffic in the resort.

The group comprises the local and regional councils, NZTA and airport corporation.

But Queenstown’s council boss Mike Theelen and NZTA regional boss Jim Harland refused to be interviewed before the meeting.

Queenstown curtains and blinds fitter Andy Tucker’s also honking his horn about congestion.

“There’s no escape,” he says.

“It takes half an hour to get to the bridge from Jack’s Point, then it’s backed up to the BP roundabout on the other side.

“It’s just not working.”

Councillor Alexa Forbes says it’s difficult to make swift changes because three agencies are involved.

“People are frustrated, I totally get that,” she says. “It probably should have happened years ago but we’re not good at that in New Zealand - convincing someone to spend rates money 10 years before you need it.”

Forbes says the transport agency operates a “just-in-time strategy”.

“It’s frustrating but I don’t want to necessarily blame NZTA, we’re working with the individuals really well.”

She believes the council’s town centre transport strategy will help tackle the traffic by encouraging cycling and public transport over private cars.

She says part of that is accepting private cars are “a last century thing”.

“We need fewer cars.

“That’s not my brain coming up with it - that’s what’s happened elsewhere in the world such as Italy and Switzerland where there’s constrained roading and geography.”

She’s personally frustrated though that improved public transport is not already well advanced, to give people an alternative.

Otago Regional Council has a business case and now there’s talk about how to fund it.

Forbes: “We don’t have a time frame, which is unbelievably frustrating for me because I’ve been working on that for my whole term now.”

Harland points to the agency’s planned programme of improvements.

In an emailed statement, he says the transport group “is currently looking at ways to best manage growing transport demand from residents and visitors in the Wakatipu Basin given the area’s exponential growth, which is not forecast to ease over the next 10 years, as well as seasonal peaks in traffic volumes”.

Harland says it’ll likely take improved infrastructure and public transport to combat “private vehicle trips on the constrained network”.

Gerard and Tucker agree on solutions such as double-laning Frankton roundabout and the approaches in all directions and, crucially, opening the eastern access road as soon as possible.

Gerard suggests a covered cycleway out to Shotover Country, while Tucker wants pedestrian overpasses downtown.