Car-free trial response varied

There appeared to be three quite distinct reactions to yesterday's car-free trial in the centre of Wanaka.

Pedestrians loved it. Motorists hated it. Retailers were unimpressed.

"Chaos. Like Queenstown," a truck driver shouted from his cab as he waited in Brownston St for a gap in the traffic at the Ardmore St roundabout.

"Keep it like this," said a pedestrian seated in the middle of the closed-off section of Ardmore St.

"I wasn't consulted", said a retailer.

It will be the pedestrians who have it all their own way until 3pm on Tuesday while the Queenstown Lakes District Council trials a new car-free arrangement for the area between Wanaka's CBD and the lake.

Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod was at pains to point out it was only a trial and if several hundred metres of bitumen was to be given over to pedestrians permanently, the disruption to motor vehicle traffic and parking would first need to be addressed.

Asked about the reactions he'd had, Mr MacLeod said he had been called an "inappropriate name" by one man but among others "the feel, the vibe, is so positive".

One Helwick St businesswoman not feeling the positivity was Wools of Wanaka owner Ann-Louise Stokes, who said she had not been consulted about the closure directly.

Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod and pedestrians and cyclists using car-free streets in Wanaka...
Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod and pedestrians and cyclists using car-free streets in Wanaka yesterday seemed happy with the arrangement, but motorists forced to use busy, alternative routes and some retailers were less than enthusiastic. PHOTOS: MARK PRICE
While it was too early to say what effect it was having on her business, there was "an eerie quietness" in the street, Ms Stokes said.

"It doesn't feel right.

"It's not vibrant."

A lack of parking was one of her concerns, as it was for Leonie Sanders of Southern Wild, who had a "ridiculously quiet" morning, she said.

"Customers can't get here.

"There are no car parks."

Courier drivers had also been inconvenienced, Ms Sanders said.

A group of 25 retailers is monitoring the effects of the closure on their businesses and expects to provide a clearer picture early next week.

Mr MacLeod said internationally, car-free areas were good for business.

"If people stop and walk, they linger and spend more."

He was happy to talk to business owners.

"They are the lifeblood of this community."

Wanaka resident Eddie Spearing said walking through the car-free area was "quite pleasant" but "trying to get here is very, very difficult.

"The traffic around town is too chaotic."

He believed the car-free idea should be shelved for five years, until the new Three Parks commercial area was up and running.

Another resident, Belinda Fothergill, who was on a bike, said she thought the car-free area was "awesome".

"I think Wanaka needs it and we've got to do it sooner rather than later because [Wanaka's] growing so much, sadly."

Add a Comment