There’s been a changing of the guard at the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association (APBA), with Jimmy Sygrove, having led the membership organisation through Covid, stepping down, and regional economist Benje Patterson stepping up as chair. While the village’s future is bright, they tell TRACEY ROXBURGH some big conversations are needed
NOT long ago Arrowtown businesses relied on a busy summer to survive winter.
Historically a town full of hospitality and retail, there’s been a quiet shift in the village, which now boasts almost every professional service you can think of — except a dentist — which is reaping dividends for the local economy and its residents.
Former APBA chair Jimmy Sygrove — who’s handed the reins over to Arrowtown-based regional economist Benje Patterson — says while the past three years have been full of challenges, ‘‘Arrowtown’s done pretty well’’.
That’s in no small part thanks to APBA manager Nicky Busst, whom the pair describe as ‘‘a legend’’, who’s worked tirelessly with and on behalf of local businesses and organisations since she joined the organisation in March, 2021.
The growth of professional services has also been a major turning point — Sygrove notes Arrow Lane is now full of those businesses, with more to come.
That’s introduced a stable workforce, which is supporting other businesses, including cafes and bars — ‘‘everyone needs coffee and a beer, right?’’
Patterson: ‘‘It’s [been] fantastic to have those jobs through Covid, because it kept so many of our businesses, and the hospitality establishments, busy.
‘‘It also creates a pipeline for kids coming through the schools.
‘‘For a town that has aged quite a bit, our school roll is struggling despite us being a district of high growth, so it’s quite good having a range of opportunities, particularly in those professional services.’’
Another key strategic focus for APBA, like the wider region, is attracting long-stay, high-spend tourists.
It’s one of the reasons the organisation’s been pushing backcountry trails access, he says.
In line with that, APBA’s been actively promoting Arrowtown as the premier access point to the backcountry, locally and nationally.
‘‘We run out our front door and we can be in a serious backcountry situation within 45 minutes,’’ Sygrove says.
That offering’s been further bolstered by the opening of the Coronet Loop track last March, and more mountain biking trails coming off the Coronet Peak face.
About 10 months ago, APBA supported the Queenstown Trails Trust to install a trail counter at Bush Creek — already it’s knocking on 20,000.
‘‘To put that in perspective, that’s about a third of what they see on the Dunstan Trail, just on little old Bush Creek,’’ Sygrove says.
Further bolstering APBA’s ambition to make Arrowtown ‘‘the real mecca’’ for the outdoor community, attracting low-impact tourists, are new events coming this year.
Brandon Purdue’s Arrowtown Backyard Ultra, being held in November, and The Wild, organsed by Mal Law, ‘‘the godfather of trail running in New Zealand’’, who’s bringing out the world’s top female ultrarunner, Courtney Dauwalter, from Colorado, as an ambassador for his December event, means all eyes will be on Arrowtown.
It’s those sorts of events, and the likes of next month’s Cyclorama, coupled with further trail development, which has spurred APBA on to make Arrowtown more bike-friendly, starting with the removal of ‘‘three or four’’ carparks along Buckingham St to create 35 bike parks.
The pair say that’s the first step in what needs to be a bigger, more coordinated, conversation.
For example, Sygrove says there could be an argument for pedestrianising Buckingham St, though initially that might involve a shared-space scenario.
‘‘Certainly, some of the old, opposing voices to that in recent years have changed their tune.
‘‘You only have to see Buckingham St when Matariki Arrowtown Lights was on, it’s just a wicked space to hang out.’’
APBA’s also working with Queenstown’s council to get its first-ever Arrowtown masterplan.
‘‘There are all these groups doing all this work and the dots just aren’t being joined, even between different QLDC departments and [different] groups,’’ Sygrove says.
‘‘It just feels like if we brought it all together, you could get some really good prioritisation with council, the [Otago Regional Council], funding — it’d be more efficient.’’
That would also look at the potential impacts of Queenstown council’s proposed urban intensification plan change, which enables infill development in the medium-density residential zone, and a greater height limit, with no carparking.
While Arrowtown has effectively reached capacity in terms of developable land, any infill development has to pass through the Arrowtown design guidelines.
It’s not clear, should the urban intensification come to pass, which would take precedence.
There may also be an argument for reviewing Arrowtown’s urban growth boundary.
Sygrove: ‘‘The thing that makes the town so special is that it’s quite condensed and hasn’t sprawled out — you could see how it could with all the flat land around it.
‘‘That’s what’s kept its charac ter, I think, but it also creates a massive barrier to entry for young families.’’