editorial 757

Editorial

An integrated, visionary plan and $95m to make it a reality

June 29 2020 by Scott Stevens

An integrated, visionary plan and $95m to make it a reality

Ninety-five million bucks. That’s $50m to cover the total cost of stage one of the Queenstown Arterials project, $35m for Queenstown’s town centre revamp and $10m for AJ Hackett Bungy.

Okay, so, $5m of the AJ Hackett money is a loan, as Jacinda was quick to point out as she stood before the Earnslaw on her Wayfare-promo tour of Queenstown and Wanaka on Friday. But, $95m! Not bad for a Labour-led coalition Government to give to a town so National it once elected Todd Barclay. Mayor Jim Boult was positively beaming. Council boss Mike Theelen too. They finally have direct Government support for infrastructure projects that have been on the drawing board for years, and it only took expert lobbying and a global pandemic to get there.

Now there are those who will say we do not need to spend $50m of taxpayers’ money on a new bypass - more roads. And the $35m for downtown will be matched by $22m of council funds, of ratepayer money. The council should tighten its belt and stop all unnecessary spending on grand capital projects. That was a view of many who made submissions to the council’s annual plan.

But, I feel we’ve been there before. Post-GFC we had years of zero rates rises, while the council focused heavily on cost-cutting. There were capital projects that progressed, but Queenstown was not prepared for the subsequent double-digit tourism growth. Perhaps no-one could have predicted that. This time, however, the town can choose a different response. It can take advantage of this hiatus and the relaxation of central Government purse-strings to finally catch up and even get ahead.

Look at the plans - they are integrated and visionary. The bypass allows for people to take precedence over cars in much of downtown - in Ballarat Street, Camp St, Shotover Street, Lower Beach Street and elsewhere. It unlocks a $25 million bus interchange outside a huge new civic / commercial buildings project on Stanley Street. In stage two, the bypass will connect to the massive Lakeview development, which over 10 years will provide high-density offices and hospitality premises and assorted accommodation options, hopefully lowering the unsustainable downtown rents. All exciting projects. All show the town will continue to be one of the best places in the world to live, visit, and invest. Perhaps the next push could be for a solar-powered bus fleet for Queenstown, and funding for the suburban commuter cycleways, so there is a green benefit to the projects. All these things will stimulate the local economy and, with any luck, the rates bill will be met by a bed tax when the dust settles.

Hopefully, also, AJ Hackett will be the first of many businesses in town to be supported by direct funding. The Kiwi Birdlife Park is in with a major shout, surely, as are many others, large, medium and small. Whatever money is forthcoming, the businesses and the town will have contributed far more in terms of GST, PAYE and SWEAT, and will continue to as the town rises from the Covid sick bed.

Paul Taylor
paul@qmg.co.nz

- Scott Stevens
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