Transport Minister Simon Bridges is promising the government will fix Queenstown’s congested highway network “with all the haste we can”.
In an exclusive interview with Mountain Scene, the minister says he and local MP Todd Barclay are pressuring NZ Transport Agency to ensure its proposed roading improvements all come to pass.
Following discussions in the resort last Friday, he says he’ll raise with NZTA bringing forward the four-laning of Kawarau Road, between the BP and airport roundabouts, where there’s huge congestion every day.
Presently, that’s on NZTA’s ‘long-term’ list.
“I’ve been hearing today and tonight some question marks about the prioritisation,” the minister says.
“What we can say is we are going to do it all, it’s just a question of which goes first.”
There’s even a chance the eastern access road - which will bypass the BP bottleneck - could be finished sooner than the end of next year, he says.
NZTA “tell me that it’s on the fastest reasonable timeframe they can do it [in]”.
“If we can do it possibly quicker, we will.”
Bridges tells Mountain Scene: “I just don’t want to leave the people of Queenstown and the wider area with any doubt - we get it.
“We understand that the tourism, the population growth is putting pressure on your infrastructure.
“I think that caught everyone, including locals, by surprise.
“Unfortunately Rome, or in this case Queenstown, wasn’t built in a day.
“We’ve got to go through the various legal processes around consenting and design before we get to construction, but we are moving with all the haste we can.”
Bridges says he’s been consistently discussing Queenstown transport issues with NZTA over the past year.
“I’m going to be back, look, two or three, possibly four times before the end of next year with sod turnings, and hopefully some openings as well, which I think will give people a sense of the tangible progress that’s being made.”
Bridges also says that Queenstown should benefit from a $1 billion infrastructure fund, recently announced by Prime Minister John Key, of which about half is earmarked for transport.
Asked about public transport, he says “part of the answer is a park-and-ride, or some park-and-rides, and getting many more people conveniently into the centre through buses”.
NZTA would subsidise “public transport like the bussing”.
Meanwhile, Bridges accepts while there was debate on where to build a new two-lane Kawarau Bridge, “we were locked and loaded”.
“It was the right thing to get on with Kawarau - the other one’s going to happen over time as well.”