Fergburger footpath expansion gets go-ahead

Fergburger has got approval to widen the footpath outside the popular Queenstown burger joint to ease congestion.

Queenstown Lakes district councillors yesterday narrowly voted in favour of a proposal by the Shotover St business to meet the estimated $100,000 cost of the project.

The decision means the footpath will be widened by removing three car parks and divided into two lanes separated by seating.

Speaking at a public forum before the debate, Fergburger general manager Stephen Bradley told councillors the company was taking a ''proactive approach'' by gifting the cost of the project to improve public safety outside its premises.

The area was one of the most photographed and filmed spots in the resort, and had become a popular meeting point for visitors to the CBD.

The opening of a ''Mrs Ferg'' ice cream parlour later this year would only add to the congestion.

''The look of people walking down the road, or waiting in gutters, is one to be avoided.''

However, Unichem Wilkinson's Pharmacy owner-manager Kim Wilkinson said it was wrong to allow a business to expand on to ratepayers' land.

The loss of three car parks would exacerbate the problem of the inner CBD having less than half the number of car parks it had 25 years ago.

Councillor Simon Stamers-Smith said the council should wait until a new transport and parking strategy for the CBD was released early next year.

''We're setting a precedent that I think is unnecessary and unwise.''

Fergburger had moved from Cow Lane because its business had grown. It was now too big for its current location, so should move again, he said.

''We are making a huge economic decision on [Fergburger's] behalf, at the simple cost of $100,000, to have the use of the footpath for ever and a day for nothing, and frankly I think that is quite improper.''

Councillor Lex Perkins said approving the proposal was not setting a precedent, because the council had approved footpath extensions outside other downtown businesses.

Having a new parking plan for the CBD was not going to make the problem go away.

''The situation is going to go on and on and on. We need to make a decision today.''

Council chief engineer Ulrich Glasner said the council had been working on resolving parking issues for the past decade: ''My concern is for safety, and the issue that we have at the moment.''