Committee neutral on tunnel plan

The Queenstown Lakes District Council's infrastructure services committee neither opposes nor supports the controversial 11.3km single-lane Dart Tunnel proposal for the Mt Aspiring National Park but it will make a submission highlighting several concerns it has regarding the impacts on Glenorchy, roading and transport.

The committee decided at a meeting in Wanaka yesterday it would send a submission based on discussion points raised in a report prepared by asset management engineer Andrew Edgar.

Committee chairman Lyal Cocks said the committee's role yesterday was to agree on making a submission.

Any comments about the desirability of the bus tunnel linking Routeburn Rd to Hollyford Rd in the Fiordland National Park could prejudice the council, should it be required to decide resource consent issues in the future, Cr Cocks cautioned.

"What we are dealing with here are infrastructure issues.

Wider, holistic issues are for the full council. We have to be careful here. We can make a strong submission but we shouldn't come out and say we support it or we don't support it.

That is for the council," Cr Cocks said.

The council spends up to $450,000 a year maintaining and operating the road between Queenstown and Routeburn and can spend up to $2 million a year renewing it, when it fails.

Another $200,000 goes towards preventing rock falls and gravel accumulation under the Rees River bridge.

Traffic numbers vary greatly, depending on season. They can peak at 1000 vehicles per day, with 100 on the quietest days.

Mr Edgar said in his report that increases in traffic and bus movements would be "very noticeable" and with the introduction of the tunnel, tour buses would make up between 40% and 50% of all of the traffic.

Mr Edgar was not at the meeting, so the council's transport manager Denis Mander was ask to respond to questions.

Mr Mander clarified Routeburn Rd does not follow the legal alignment and is on Crown land but is maintained by the council.

He also explained the special purpose road from Queenstown to Routeburn is 100% funded by the the New Zealand Transport Agency, "but this should not be taken for granted if the Government can see a change in purpose" and the works were required for a single commercial operator.

He advised the committee to raise this funding issue in its submission.

The tunnel could create expectation from travellers that the narrow, unsealed Routeburn Rd could be sealed.

There could also be pressure to upgrade the narrow road to Glenorchy, such as providing more passing lanes to reduce driver frustration and improving the single lane bridges.

Mr Mander said there were also impacts on the Glenorchy community.

These would include increased noise, vibrations, more vehicles and the impact of 80 bus movements a day.

Glenorchy residents were advocating the council highlight these negatives "a lot more strongly", Mr Mander said.

Committee members asked the submission also include comments about other uses of the road, such as for stock movements.

Cr Cocks was authorised to write the submission, which will emailed to committee members for final comments before it is forwarded to the Department of Conservation.

Submissions close on February 20.

 

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