Otago Daily Times

ORC endorses transport projects


- MOLLY HOUSEMAN molly.houseman@odt.co.nz

OTAGO regional councillor­s are apprehensi­ve about contributi­ng to a proposed $200 million spend on transport projects for Queenstown, if the resort is at risk of becoming a “boardedup ghost town”.

Councillor­s were asked to endorse further developmen­t of the proposed plan, which involves work being completed by the regional council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and NZ Transport Agency, during a meeting of the regional council’s strategy and planning committee this week.

The plan could address congestion issues and reduce emissions.

Regional councillor­s decided they would support it, subject to feedback during public consultati­on on the regional council’s longterm plan, but said they felt it was a risk.

It would cost $1.5 million, shared equally between the regional council and NZ Transport Agency over the next two years, to develop the more detailed plan.

Delivering improved bus services in the Wakatipu was estimated to cost $131 million between 2024 and 2030, and new infrastruc­ture, including a Queenstown public transport interchang­e and Frankton public transport interchang­e, would cost $61 million between 2028 and 2030.

The projects and costs would be shared between three organisati­ons.

The plan would rely on 40% of people switching to alternativ­e modes of transport, including walking, cycling and public transport, by 2028.

That would need to increase to 60% by 2048, a staff report to councillor­s said.

Cr Michael Deaker called the proposed plan optimistic, considerin­g there were fears Queenstown could become a ‘‘boardedup ghost town’’ before internatio­nal travellers could return.

‘‘Why would we be doing that if the mayor of the district is accurate in his forecast — for his town being a place of boardedup businesses?’’ Cr Deaker asked.

Council operations general manager Gavin Palmer said the assumption was that Queenstown would be back to preCovid levels by 2024, but there was flexibilit­y to defer work, which would be implemente­d in stages, if the demand for transport increased slower than expected.

When questioned how achievable the 40% mode shift by 2028 was, particular­ly given the delivery of improved bus services would not happen until 2027, transport manager Garry Maloney said mode shift was not only reliant on public transport, but accepted it would be a challenge.

Without further investment in the Queenstown transport network, it was expected there would be between a loss of $670 million to $1.2 billion to the Queenstown economy over a 40year period, the report said.

If the plan did not go ahead, the road network could be overcapaci­ty for much of the day and the Queenstown town centre would require an additional 3000 car parking spaces, ‘‘basically turning [the town] into a parking lot’’, Mr Maloney said.

Cr Marian Hobbs said while talk had been about endorsing the proposed plan to help solve traffic congestion, the demands of the climate change commission swayed her decision to support it.

“Let us send a signal that we are taking the climate change commission seriously,” she said.

Cr Alexa Forbes said the plan should have a longterm view.

‘‘If we don’t get on with this . . . we miss the opportunit­y yet again . . . ‘‘If Queenstown takes two years to bounce back, so what? We will then be ready,’’ she said.

Cr Hilary Calvert wanted to hear if Queenstown ratepayers wanted to prioritise paying higher rates for the proposed transport plan while the town was struggling with the economic impacts of Covid19.

‘‘What I am hearing is they don’t even want to pay their rent . . . let alone paying higher rates,’’ she said.

Councillor­s decided to endorse the proposed plan, subject to feedback during the regional council’s longterm plan consultati­on process, scheduled to happen in a few months time.

The district council has already endorsed the plan, and the NZ Transport Agency will make its decision on February 24.

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