OPENING SHOT: Let’s applaud progress, but not at any cost


OPINION: Progress is great, isn’t it, David Williams asks.

After years of political slumber in Queenstown, of needless cost-cutting and ridiculous attempts to keep rates steady, there seems to be an attitude to roll up the sleeves and get things done.

Inner Links is back on the table as the council-backed conference centre slips off.

The Otago Regional Council has awoken from its rate-stockpiling slumber to find money, magically, to re-establish an office and even to pay more than scant attention to lake gunk.

By the state of our four-laned roads and our almost two-laned bridge over the Kawarau River, Wellington’s funnelling back some of our tourism-generated cash. Happy days. Soon we’ll all be paying our $2 to hop on a bus and flipping two fingers at congestion and parking charges, right?

I’ll be accused of having buyer’s remorse but things aren’t that easy.

Yes, let’s applaud the achievements of Jim Boult’s Queenstown council and its can-do attitude.

But let’s also be sure that they’re doing what we want – and that consultation isn’t just a tick-box exercise for a decision that’s essentially already been made.

Take, for example, the idea to bowl the Queenstown Memorial Centre for a new bypass road.

Where did that idea come from? In an opinion piece in the newspaper today, popular ex-councillor Cath Gilmour worries about the lack of details.

No cost-benefit study, no route comparison – nothing to explain why this is the best route.

Gilmour’s got a good political radar so it’s fair to assume others are also worried.

And what about Ladies Mile?

Another contributor this week, Mark Tylden, says it’s perfect for development.

I’m not convinced. It feels like the idea’s being rammed through.

That was underpinned by the government’s announcement of a loan for Queenstown’s council to build infrastructure there.

This fast-track mentality is fine for discrete pieces of land adjoining built-up areas.

But I think it’s being used to bulldoze through plans that might not, on the face of it, meet the sniff test.

Fast-tracked subdivisions have no rules about who developers sell to. So how can it be sold to us as tackling affordable housing when investors and speculators swoop in?

If Queenstowners don’t stand up for what they believe in, swathes of rural land might be ripped up.

Announcing a plan, consulting for a few weeks and then ramming it through isn’t good enough.

It needs to be explained and the public need a good chance to digest it.

Those who are starting to bristle at the pace of think-big plans should probably attend tonight’s PechaKucha evening, about the council’s town centre masterplan.

It starts at 6pm at the Crowne Plaza hotel*.

That’s funny – why wasn’t it held at the Memorial Centre?

* Because of strong interest, PechaKucha has now been shifted to Queenstown Memorial Centre