Town ‘fast approaching crisis point’

"Omarama is fast approaching a real crisis point," Omarama Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman Ann Patterson says.

The town of about 300 people at the junction of State Highways 8 and 83 was on the South Island’s main tourist route between Christchurch, Aoraki Mt Cook, Queenstown, and Milford Sound.

As well,  the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and nearby Oteake Conservation Park and Ahuriri Conservation Park were drawing huge numbers of tourists to the town and its infrastructure could not cope, she said.

"It just really guts you to see this tiny town being trashed basically and that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s the truth of it," Mrs Patterson said.

"There’s so many vehicles parked haphazardly, so many people walking everywhere.

"It’s just chaos and I actually really, really think we’re at crisis point regarding the parking and the toilet situation.

"It’s pretty bad."

Mrs Patterson and three other association members presented their concerns to the Waitaki District Council during last week’s public hearings for the council’s proposed 2018-28 long-term plan: Omarama needs a town plan now — before it is too late.

Pedestrian safety, parking, rubbish and toilets needed to be addressed.

Mrs Patterson said a new large parking area for the town, with a toilet, would be required and she wanted the council to rezone or buy land to allow that to happen.

Jemma Gloag said the association was keen to avoid the issues other towns that had experienced rapid growth were facing.

Many in the town had seen the significant increase of people and that "it really is just struggling to cope".

"It’s just crazy how quickly it has come on and I think that is probably what has driven a lot of people to do something about it. Because suddenly it’s like ‘Wow, there are a lot of people here, we need to be able to cope with that.’

"You want to have a good plan in place before the population grows."

She told councillors that, despite a recent Sport Otago assessment otherwise, the town needed a new sports facility. While the planning was still in the conceptual stage, the association had raised $40,000 to start "chipping away" at the fundraising for multipurpose courts, which could include three tennis courts and netball courts.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the council did "appreciate the pressure" the town was under and a "bigger conversation" would be required to address the community’s concerns.


It is the same problem everywhere in Central Otago. NZ Tourism Board, Auckland and Queenstown airports continue to allow new airlines or more flights to arrive and no one on the ground is in sync with the projections that airports or Govt have. Everyone else is playing catch up and the Councils are simply not prepared and are now behind the eight ball. With the Queenstown Council they have a large pool of rates to collect however the allocation to Wanaka and Hawea is not in sync with the percentages collected. There are a billion Chinese and Indians. Many middle class families wish to visit NZ at some point but I am not sure the people on the ground here realise the impact this has. In Hong Kong, a population of 8 million people had almost 60 million visitors from Mainland China last year and the locals are feed up. Cannot walk on the footpaths, cannot get on the trains. The impact on normal life is huge. What then happens is the locals start to abuse the tourists. This is going to happen here. Have a close look at Hong Kong and see how much the Chinese Tourists are despised. This is only because the Govt has not planned for this. I see it here now.