Transport, tourism link stressed

The importance of landlocked Queenstown and Wanaka to tourism nationally will be stressed when the Queenstown Lakes District Council makes submissions on a land transport strategy for the next 30 years.

The council's infrastructure services committee was asked on Tuesday to approve the draft submission on the draft Regional Land Transport Strategy, prepared by the Regional Transport Committee, before the deadline of June 21, on behalf of the Otago Regional Council.

The draft five-page submission says the district council is "encouraged" by the draft strategy's approach, especially the significance given to construction of a replacement of the single-lane Kawarau Falls bridge, the only road link to the Remarkables ski area.

However, the council submitted it was concerned nationally important tourist routes, such as State Highway 6 through the district, "continue to be unrecognised for priority through central government funding".

Lack of funding delayed highway projects, including replacements of Kawarau and Albert Town bridges, the absence of a long-term fix for Nevis Bluff, bus priority measures on Frankton Rd and seasonal congestion in Queenstown.

The council's submission said the district was the third-largest contributor to New Zealand's tourism industry, after Canterbury and Auckland, with 13% of all international guest nights in Queenstown and Wanaka. Yet both towns relied on SH6 for almost all goods needed to service the district. Highway closure would hamper the tourism industry and damage its reputation as a destination.

Councillor John Mann said he preferred the council made the points about the district's importance to tourism stronger in the submission.

"We're comparing ourselves with Auckland and Christchurch as tourism centres, but both have rail and sea and we don't."

Committee chairman Lyal Cocks said Transport Minister Steven Joyce was aware of the council's concerns, but Mr Joyce would make decisions on capacity and facts, not the state of the roads.

Cr Mann said the submission should emphasise the district's landlocked nature. "Two slips can cut our bread, essentially, and I don't think any town of this nature is that vulnerable."

The committee resolved to approve the draft submission, with amendments.

QLDC transport manager Denis Mander was authorised to write a letter to the Minister of Transport, "emphasising specific unique risk issues relating to our district".


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