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Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Mike Theelen thinks Wanaka could be the district’s "engine room" while Queenstown is the "headline act" for tourists and locals.
He made those comments in an interview with The Spinoff website in which he also raised the idea of a tunnel between the two resort towns.
In response to questions from the Otago Daily Times Mr Theelen said the district had a significant opportunity to grow its economy, community and national contribution in a way which leveraged the environment all the district’s residents were lucky to live in.
All towns in the district had significant roles to play in a successful and sustainable future, Mr Theelen said.
"Queenstown is frequently the headline act that brings people to the area, both as visitors and to live, but there is so much going on in the other areas of the district that keeps people here."
Each individual settlement needed to develop both on its own and as part of the larger district, to ensure a cohesive and resilient approach to the issues facing the district.
As for the idea of a tunnel through the Crown Range, Mr Theelen said while there were no immediate plans for such a major construction project, it was important for the district to have "big" ideas.
"In a period of unprecedented growth for our district, it’s important for us all to have big ideas, including the council."
A tunnel would be less about joining the two towns together and more about giving people the freedom to choose where they lived and worked, which would unleash a collective energy.
The Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor and Wanaka resident Calum MacLeod said you only had to look at the number of people who travelled both ways over the Crown Range each day for work to see the connectivity between the two towns.
"The benefits of being a collective outweigh any benefits of being an individual," Mr MacLeod said.
Wanaka did have some strategic advantages over Queenstown and when both towns worked together they were a superior "product".
"Just look at the situation with the airport, Queenstown is constrained, costs a lot to do anything with and has conflicts between all the different types of users."
"Then you look over here at Wanaka Airport and we have open space, potential to expand is there, much less conflict between general aviation and user airspace, so Wanaka Airport is sitting there ready to take on a greater role when it’s needed."
As a frequent user of the Crown Range Rd, Mr MacLeod said he did not expect the "think big" ideas of the past to come back but you could never rule out a tunnel.