OPINION: ‘Twenty years on, we’re no further ahead’

More than 20 years after Queenstown’s council consulted Whakatipu residents about their vision for where we are today, I question whether we’ve even come close to achieving the community’s aspirations.

The overriding theme then was a desire for a sustainable future — one of the key components was transport.

We did a public transport study that identified $120 million had to be spent on Frankton Rd to widen it sufficiently for bus lanes and stops.

There was also a study on the CBD, recognising an effective ‘ring road’ — one way down Stanley St, around the Rec Ground and two lanes up Melbourne St into an improved Frankton Rd — was essential.

Council bought the necessary land.

At the same time, a feasibility study was done to take an arterial road around Tucker Beach into the Arthurs Point end of Gorge Rd — that was costed at under $20m.

Today, going directly from Frankton Flats to Gorge Rd makes even more sense.

Taken directly from the existing Hawthorne Dr/State Highway 6 roundabout, it’d go past Lake Johnson, above Tucker Beach and through the Arthurs Point end of Gorge Rd.

It would have a relatively-low visual impact, be virtually non-stop from Queenstown Airport to within walking distance of the CBD, with views of the outstanding natural landscape.

Gorge Rd is under-developed, so could easily accommodate multi-level park-and-ride facilities within a well-planned urban streetscape.

Proposed new road: Former Queenstown councillor Rick Pettit believes the road, in blue, investigated 20 years ago and linking Hawthorne Dr to Gorge Rd via, essentially, Queenstown Hill, should be revisited

Quite obviously, this would relieve pressure on Frankton Rd, remove the traffic lights and, coupled with an extension to the CBD ring road, you’d have two viable transport options.

Waka Kotahi has clearly shown that solving this issue in our community is well down its priority list, and after this year’s weather events, that’s unlikely to change for decades.

Between Queenstown’s council, Otago Regional Council (ORC) and Waka Kotahi, they’ve come to a ‘‘solution’’ for Queenstown that will not work.

Frankton Rd was never widened to take public transport, and putting 10 sets of traffic lights along it will only exacerbate the current issues.

We cannot continue to rely on the ORC (public transport) and Waka Kotahi (roading) to solve our problems.

There’s legislation to help — the Public Works Act provides for land to be taken, if required, at fair compensation to the landowner and supercedes the Resource Management Act, while the Local Government Act requires long-term planning, solely the responsibility of council.

The Frankton to Gorge Rd connection, which would be a council road, should be revisited.

It would be partially funded by Waka Kotahi, but substantially funded by developers, who, over the past 20 years, haven’t contributed to the true cost of improving our roading network, despite the pressure on it they’ve created.

That road would be a district-wide im provement, so funding could be levied on full-district development.

Council is blind in its belief walking, cycling and public transport will solve our transport issues. In my opinion, it is simply naive, and when it comes to council’s proposed plan change for Ladies Mile, it will only exacerbate existing issues.

And, fundamentally, it’s still failing to meet any of the community outcomes raised 20 years ago.

Rick Pettit is a long time Queenstowner who served as a district councillor from 2001-07

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