Rally closures: 'Not on our roads'

Plans to close some Otago roads for the Targa New Zealand rally have put some affected residents into a spin.

In Dunedin, the rally has divided opinions of Otago Peninsula residents who live in and close to Highcliff Rd, designated as part of the route for the South Island's first Targa rally in October.

Objections have also been raised in the Wakatipu, where organisers have applied to close the Queenstown-Glenorchy road.

Peninsula residents opposed to the road closure - from 9am-1.30pm on Thursday, October 30 - expressed concern about being unable to access their properties, noise and exhaust fumes from the event and the ''arrogance of organisers''.

However, rally organisers said they had gone out of their way to address residents' concerns, and the seven-day event, which starts in Christchurch on October 27 and ends in Queenstown the following Sunday, would bring millions of dollars to the Otago region.

Dunedin City Council transport technical officer Michael Tannock recommended the council approve a resource consent application for the road to be closed.

''While there have been objections to the event, the race organiser has made reasonable attempts to address the adverse impacts that may occur.

''Officers' views are that this event benefits the majority of the community, therefore, the closure should be supported,'' Mr Tannock said.

Pukehiki resident Lynn Samuels said, like many of her neighbours, she had been struck by the organisers' arrogance.

''We weren't consulted, we were told,'' she said.

The road was also popular with tourists, who would be unable to use it.

''It's not just a normal country road. It's a busy road.''

Other concerns posted by residents on the Pukehiki Community Blog included that ''wildlife and motor racing do not go together'', a car race was unsafe on such a narrow and steep road, and the event would disturb residents and farms where lambing would be in progress.

Pukehiki Hall society president John Ware, who was staying neutral on the issue, said a group of not-so-vocal residents was in favour of the rally.

Martin Dippie, here with co-driver Jona Grant in their Porsche GT3, is the defending Targa New...
Martin Dippie, here with co-driver Jona Grant in their Porsche GT3, is the defending Targa New Zealand champion. Photo: Ben Hughes
Targa New Zealand operations manager Gary Upson said organisers had carried out a ''comprehensive consultation process''.

That involved door-knocking all residents living in Highcliff Rd, and Mr Upson disagreed with accusations of arrogance.

Residents had been given notice three or four months ahead of the rally, meaning they could plan around the lack of access, or arrange with rally organisers to be escorted out on the morning of the event, he said.

''We expect that we will have close to 200-odd competitors and by the time you get the service crew and helpers and officials there will probably be well over 1500 people who will be staying in Dunedin for two nights.

''All of those people are going to be wining and dining while they are there,'' Mr Upson said.

The council report on the event will be open for discussion at the Otago Peninsula Community Board meeting on Thursday, when the board will be asked to give its opinion on the road closure before a final decision is made by the council.

Closing the Queenstown-Glenorchy road from 1.30pm-7pm on Saturday, November 1, was running ''roughshod'' over the interests of businesses and residents along the route, an objector claimed.

Blanket Bay luxury lodge general manager Philip Jenkins had written to the Queenstown Lakes District Council opposing the application, and would ''vigorously appeal'' if it was granted.

''You can't close an arterial road for an event that will stop traffic coming out to Glenorchy when there isn't an alternative route.''

The lodge supported events that drew visitors to the region, but event organisers could not ''run roughshod'' over local businesses.

Closeburn resident Doug Bailey said it was ''unacceptable and unreasonable'' for the road to be closed for an extended time on a weekend day.

Glenorchy Community Association chairman Pete Reid said a Targa representative had not attended last week's monthly meeting as he had hoped, and residents had not received details about the road closure application.

''A few residents are starting to question it because they haven't got any information. It's not ideal.''

However, he generally supported the event, and thought residents would be able to plan around it.

''It's not closed for the whole day, and there's a window in the middle of it.''

Council planning and development general manager Marc Bretherton said the public could make submissions on Targa's application until the council's property sub-committee made a decision on August 28.

Targa New Zealand managing director Peter Martin could not be reached for comment.

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