Arrowtown’s trial main street closure draws mixed response

3 minutes read
Posted 7 May, 2024
Tourists enjoy the freedom of a wander along Arrowtowns temporarily closed off main street 1

Tourists enjoy the freedom of a wander along Arrowtown's temporarily closed off main street

The first few days of a week-long trial closing off traffic to Arrowtown’s quaint main street Buckingham Street and prioritising greater pedestrian use have drawn a mixed, in some cases strong, response.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council is keen to get feedback on what the future of Buckingham Street should look like and what residents and business owners want. The council’s implementing safety measures on the main narrow street, which can become awash with vehicles and pedestrians during peak seasons, after concerns from residents and business owners. A raised speed slowing measure made from schist and exposed aggregate is being installed at the one-way entrance to the street, designed in keeping with the town’s historic village aesthetic.

After working closely with the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association and the community, four new bike racks are also being installed, replacing four car parks, outside Arrowtown Bakery, The Gold Shop and Postmasters Kitchen & Bar.  Association manager Nicky Busst says three of the racks are planter boxes for up to 20 bikes designed by Baxter Design and built by Arrowtown Engineering. “They’ll be filled with white carpet roses making a stunning display and maintained by APBA,” she says. It’s hoped these will help mitigate the constant damage that businesses and building owners endure along the left side of the one-way from trucks and campervans hitting and damaging historic veranda posts and awnings. This results in costly repairs and water leaking into premises due to broken downpipes, Busst says.

So far while tourists seem to have been enjoying not having to keep an eye out for cars, it’s not been embraced by all.

The Jade and Opal Factory owner Lee-Roy Mullings says by the end of Monday, when the closure began, he estimates his business was probably down 50% for this time of the year. “I hate it. I’d rather people drive down and see what’s here. I’ve had a very poor day of sales,” he says. “It’s not getting the thumbs up from me at all.” Mullings says he’d probably look at shifting his business if it was ever decided to pedestrianise Buckingham Street. He would be concerned about adequate parking close by for elderly trying to get to the pharmacy and Post Office, and for his customers carrying in 20 to 50kilos of jade for him to assess and carve.

However, on the left side of the street long-time Gold Shop owner Justin Eden is all for a shared space. The building owner as well, he’s faced a huge hike in insurance premiums and spent many an hour trying to help guide campervan drivers free after they’ve become stuck in his historic shop veranda. “Every veranda post on my side of the street has been hit multiple times by delivery or passenger vehicles, or campervans,” he says. “It’s imperative that something’s done.” Eden says his insurance excess has increased from $250 to $1000.”

“This summer was incredibly busy. I’ve never seen it busier in 35 years of trading here,” Eden says. “Our footpaths can’t handle the foot traffic, mums with prams, and multiple kids, so everybody spills out onto the street,” he says. “It would be good to share between vehicles and pedestrians.”

He also advocates parking at each end, especially for the elderly and those with mobility issues, and welcomes the attractive bike racks.

The APBA and AVA are also supporting a council survey being conducted this month to ascertain public sentiment and gauge the future use of the street.

Busst says the trial closure, necessary for the upgrade work, is a great opportunity for people to test the options.

She says unfortunately there’s been some misconception that the council is already considering closing off the street and only considering pedestrianisation when actually it’s just taking a positive initiative while the street is closed to gauge community views.

“Even if the survey shows a positive result for change it would still only be the initial stage while the road is closed, but any decision or implementation could be three to five-plus years away and would only occur after extensive public consultation,” she says.

Arrowtown’s heritage watchdog and retired museum director, David Clarke, who has extensive heritage planning experience in the town, has also been heavily involved in the plans. “We’ve worked hard to make sure we’re heading in the right direction,” Busst says.

Buckingham Street is closed from Monday (6 May) until the end of 13 May and people are encouraged to complete the survey, which closes on 19 May, at:






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