ORC to ask Govt for plan funding

The Otago Regional Council will ask the Government to fund its half of a $1.5million development plan for transport projects in Queenstown.

Councillors agreed to endorse further development of the plan, which would involve a $200million spend on work to be completed by the regional council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and NZ Transport Agency to address congestion and reduce emissions in the resort town, earlier this month.

It would result in the regional council and NZ Transport Agency each paying $750,000 over the next two years to develop a more detailed plan.

However, Cr Hilary Calvert asked councillors during a finance committee meeting on Wednesday to consider asking central government to cover the regional council’s half to help take pressure off Queenstown ratepayers.

The economic impact of Covid-19 on the town, and the project’s ability to address climate change by reducing emissions, made it a national issue, she said.

"Queenstown is one of the hardest-hit areas in New Zealand for Covid as a result of its reliance on tourism," Cr Calvert told the committee.

"Meanwhile the Climate Commission has released its report with the stark message that we need to reduce our carbon emissions urgently, and the prime minister has declared a climate emergency."

Chairman Andrew Noone supported the idea.

"This is a genuine attempt from the regional council to reduce the burden on local ratepayers in the Queenstown district, who are under pressure," he said.

However, Cr Bryan Scott said he could not support it as taxpayers were already paying for the NZ Transport Agency’s half.

The majority of councillors agreed the committee would write a letter to Environment Minister David Parker and Transport Minister Michael Wood to ask for the funding.

Cr Calvert hoped it would be sent by next week.

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