Opinion: Coronet peak gondola is not a 'no brainer'

3 minutes read
Posted 14 June, 2024
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Please raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a visitor or newcomer saying "I’ve come to Queenstown cause it’s always been my dream to ride the Skyline Gondola".

Queenstown’s number one tourism experience has always been its landscape and surroundings, be it its proximity to Southern national parks and Great Walks. This singular attraction is often forgotten in statements of account because no one is being asked (yet) to pay to be able to marvel at the Remarkables or every time a selfie is taken from Bob’s peak.

The RMA, groundbreaking in 1991 yet still imperfect today, allows at least our surroundings to have somehow a voice at the negotiation table. Calling out then the (very) relative success of one gondola and traffic issues to justify fast-tracking building another is all but intellectual dishonesty (or one could say: a no brainer)

Each era has its own gold rush. For our Whakatipu basin, current gold is real estate and each nugget of square metre is fought for. Historically and until now, gold has often ended up in few pockets. Should our next nugget of land to concrete over be another housing-parking-gondola combo? Or should it be a public health facility? Or could it even remain untouched?

Jim Salinger, our own NZer of the year and internationally peer-acclaimed climate researcher, recently voiced, at the WAO Film festival in Wānaka, that “the development of an ambitious public transport and slow mobility policy was key to achieve”. Moreover, the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) states that “climate projections show a potential reduction in snow days [presenting] challenges to the ski industry”. Climate change is also expected to have a significant impact on tourism demand.

Project head Rod Drury tells us that “a really big thing for us was to make sure (...) it’s conservation-led” and that “it’s not something we want to ram through” and “[are] really interested to hear people’s thoughts on it”. Yet residents presented with plans, who were asked to keep all documents confidential, called it an “eco smokescreen” and an “environmental disaster in the making”.

Will 600 new car parks and a bus stop solve traffic jams or just redirect them? 800 residential units or 800 ‘ski-from-home’ Airbnbs?

An editorial is far from enough to even begin to cover every topic. No ruling concerning 40,000 inhabitants (and many more to come) should be a 'fast-tracked no brainer', bypassing local entities of all forms, no matter your political stance. One thing to fast track here would be bringing sourced, reviewed and independent information to the public and policy maker from the entire spectrum.

Fast Tracking bill proposals are blossoming in western countries nowadays, NZ is no exception. By fear of economic downgrading, nothing should ‘shackle’ projects promising immediate growth, at all costs. Local new gold prospectors have already submitted ten proposals for fast-track approval, Coronet gondola included. Many not yet public and some already dismissed previously.

Where’s your email Scott Stevens? Rod Drury? Why so scared of a little local brainstorming? This should be a no brainer indeed!

Theo Richard

Queenstown Lakes resident


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