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Editorial

Are we solving or creating road chaos?

May 2 2022 by David Gibbs

Are we solving or creating road chaos?

It always good to get a look at a programme update as announcements and releases often gloss over the detail for the spin. And the devil, as they say, is in the detail. So, I’ve read the latest Kā Huanui a Tāhuna update with interest, that covers the roading package for Queenstown.

I’m all in favour of increasing public transport’s attractiveness, encouraging biking and the like, to get more cars off the roads. I’m not pro car and anti-public transport. However, from reading the April update, I struggle to see how our transport problems are going to be greatly improved by adding 16 sets of traffic lights, bus lanes, a new intersection in Frankton, and a roundabout. We need to recognise that major investment is required to respond to Queenstown’s traffic growth, or we are creating a recipe for ongoing traffic chaos.

The district’s population is growing by about 20% every three years. By 2025 we’ll have a population approaching 57,000, which is half the size of Dunedin. The report recognises that, and that traffic is an issue which is only going to get worse. But it actually states it is not focused at all on increasing space for private vehicles on the road, which seems to ignore some fundamental truths.

Public transport doesn’t work for everyone. It doesn’t work for tradies, or businesspeople visiting multiple clients, or for commuters in from Wanaka and elsewhere, or for cross-network trips, from say Lake Hayes Estate to Arthurs Point. Not everyone lives within a bus trip of Five Mile or the CBD. It doesn’t work for the weekly grocery trip or time-poor parents dropping the kids at school before work. It will take a major redesign to make public transport effective, and Otago Regional Council are to be applauded for a small step in this direction by listening to Arrowtown parents and changing the timetable for this term so kids can travel after-school to Queenstown Events Centre. That alone will take 50 cars off the road.

And remember, pre-Covid we had “one resident per 34 international visitors”. Hundreds of rental cars are lined up in Remarkables Park, ready to hit the roads again.

The $115m package is welcome because public transport is part of the solution, but it’s not the whole solution. There needs to be capacity for cars too, including over the Shotover River, along with multistorey parking, car share schemes, park-and-ride, and easy bike and pedestrian routes, minimising the hills, leading to bike hubs in Frankton and downtown.

Traffic flow is challenging in the area, the geography isn’t kind to road planners but that’s not an excuse to ignore reality. Cars aren’t going away anytime soon and deliberately not improving roads for private and shared vehicles is a disaster waiting to happen.

David Gibbs
Queenstown Media Group

- David Gibbs