Road gritting to continue as usual

Vanessa van Uden
Vanessa van Uden
Gritting of alpine roads will continue in the Queenstown Lakes district this winter, after a flood of submissions convinced the New Zealand Transport Agency and the district council to keep funding the safety measure.

Community feedback was sought through the draft annual plan on issues including gritting and road-oiling.

Yesterday, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden said the "community has spoken - loud and clear" and winter maintenance, including early morning gritting on the Crown Range road between Queenstown and Wanaka, would continue on a "business as usual" basis.

"Faced with a shortfall in the New Zealand Transport Agency's funding for winter maintenance, we might have assumed the community wanted to fund gritting from rates, but instead we [asked] ... what do you think?" Ms van Uden said.

The outcome follows strong lobbying from the council, which began in earnest when NZTA left the council with a $750,000 shortfall in environmental funding late last year.

Gritting was the burning issue in the public consultation, included in nearly 70% of 403 responses, many of which pointedly addressed plans to start gritting the Crown Range road at 7am rather than 5am.

NZTA's funding for the Crown Range for 2010-11 was $160,000, significantly less than the QLDC's budget of $306,000.

Ms van Uden said early-morning gritting on the Crown Range would continue and gritting would continue on roads that were not main arterial routes.

"It was fantastic. We got 280 people saying there's no way council should reduce gritting, so we've sent the submissions to NZTA to help make the case.

"There is now acknowledgement by NZTA that QLDC has been underfunded in its winter maintenance activities," she said.

NZTA also said QLDC spending on road rebuilding and resealing projects gave the agency an opportunity to boost its winter maintenance funding.

"So, the annual plan now proposes winter maintenance should be business as usual," Ms van Uden said.

The summer road-oiling issue also drew significant community feedback from respondents.

"Every year, we are applying around 225,000 litres of oil to our unsealed roads for cutting down on dust. That's a big impact on the environment, although we also recognise dust can be a safety issue," Ms van Uden said.

A total of 204 people (78% of the 262 respondents) wanted oiling to stop.

"We have listened and the programme will be discontinued but we know we need to provide other alternatives in the short term around this," she said.

The council would expand its programme for treating unsealed roads with Ottaseal, which subdued dust issues for "several years", she said.

The council will be asked to adopt the annual plan on Tuesday.



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