Snowing promise

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Queenstown councillors are promising improvements this coming winter after beating themselves up over last year’s three big snow dumps. 

Options in a recent report include:

  • snow blowers instead of ploughs and graders
  • council officials gaining authority to order fitting of chains
  • some major secondary roads getting priority status
  • improved clearance of footpaths
  • a snow-vehicle depot high on the Crown Range Road
  • and better grit. 

The prospective improvements stem from mayor Vanessa van Uden going on the warpath in late July after Queenstown’s second huge dump. 

“We need to do a hell of a lot better.” 

Her mayoral missive is followed by a 30-page report and action plan from council transport boss Denis Mander. 

Mander shrugs off criticism about the three-day closure of the Crown Range Rd. 

“Conditions were not safe for road users,” he writes. 

However, Mander concedes “temporarily stationing vehicles at the Crown Range will be costed”. 

Going by the Mander report, the embarrassing error of sole-access roads to Lake Hayes Estate and Quail Rise getting low priority for snow clearance will be fixed – as will wide-spread complaints about footpath clearances being too slow. 

However, Mander predicts opposition over using snow blowers instead of ploughs and graders. 

Sure, he says, blowers don’t create a “compressed snow bank” like ploughs and graders but: “There is a real antipathy towards snow blowers [among council contractors].” 

Blowers may only be used for a few days annually, Mander says, whereas diggers, graders and trucks fitted with snow-ploughs are usable year-round. 

Metal used to grit roads wasn’t ideal, the council transport boss admits, and alternatives will be sought. 

Good-grade grit costs more than twice the price, he adds. 

Mander also fingers the reluctance of many motorists to fit snow chains as a problem requiring action, suggesting police and the council should school up local drivers on how to fit chains and where to stop to do so. 

Only police can order drivers to fit chains but that may also be extended to council and Lakes Environmental staff. 

Last winter’s three big dumps cost a pretty penny – a total of $457,915, of which the council paid $204,000 and the NZ Transport Agency the rest.