Sort out this wailing wall (with slideshow)

SHARE

A Queenstown tourism heavyweight is at loggerheads with authorities over a metre-high flood-busting barrier protecting its downtown buildings. 

As flood panic peaked last Thursday, Skyline Enterprises and Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes argued about the business giant’s temporary wall blocking off streets. 

Geddes, demanding access be maintained for emergency services, prevented Skyline putting its innovative structure across lower Beach Street and the Rees Street/Marine Parade juncture. 

The wall remains up, protecting megabuck Skyline properties from Eichardt’s Hotel to the old Thomas’s Hotel. 

Skyline chief executive Jeff Staniland says council didn’t want emergency access hampered and “put a question mark over whether the barrier would work”. 

He’s adamant it holds back water up to 60cm high. 

Staniland says: “It was action stations and Clive said ‘You can’t put it across the road’ and our property manager Bob Dennison said ‘Why not?’ 

“Businesses across the road were saying ‘Can you please?’ 

“We’ll get away with it this time but what about next time? We need to have dialogue,” Staniland says.
Dennison adds: “It’s disappointing. It won’t be forgotten.” 

Geddes confirms emergency services didn’t want certain streets blocked. 

“Part of the problem was nobody on the incident management team knew Skyline was going to choose to protect their premises with that type of structure until they started to put it up,” Geddes says. 

“It would have been really nice to have understood prior.” 

Geddes met Skyline last Friday and it was decided the company must now thrash out any future wall issues with Otago Regional Council as it has flood protection expertise, Geddes says. 

ORC’s 2006 Learning to Live with Flooding strategy dismisses barrier walls, questioning performance and describing cost-benefits as “marginal”. 

The strategy states buildings can be just as well protected via “flood-proofing or flood-sensitive design”. 

Geddes plans a full flood debrief with property owners and businesses in a month. 

Agitated owners of businesses that the wall could have protected say the issue must be resolved before another flood threatens. Last Thursday night Rockies clothing store co-owner Shirley Popenhagen was furious the temporary wall wasn’t allowed to stretch across Beach St and shield her outlet from potential flooding. 

She fumes: “Why would [Geddes] stop it protecting a whole pile of businesses?” 

Kim Wilkinson, whose Rees St pharmacy was left exposed by the barrier’s other gap, says Queenstown Lakes District Council lived up to expectations overall but the wall is “where the drama lies”. 

“I was reasonably confident it wasn’t going to flood so the fact the wall wasn’t there on this occasion didn’t concern me too much – but it’s something we need to discuss with council so we’ve got a plan in place for next time.”

For more flood stories