Bad timing for big dig

BROOKE GARDINER
Last updated 10:50 12/12/2012

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Central Queenstown retailers are outraged after learning footpaths and roads in the CBD will be dug up during peak visitor season.

The timing of the upgrade to the broadband network in central Queenstown couldn't be worse, according to some retailers who believe there should have been more consultation about the disruptive work which will affect pedestrians and motorists.

On Friday retailers and residents received a letter from Chorus, the company installing ultra-fast broadband across the country, saying work to install roadside cabinets and fibre optic cables in the CBD would begin this week and was scheduled for completion by March.

The letter did not offer exact time frames but business owners spoken to by The Mirror were concerned the work had been scheduled to take place during the busiest months of the year.

Michael Hill Jeweller

Queenstown manager Chris Hogan said there had been no consultation and they hoped the work could be pushed out to the shoulder season at the end of autumn.

"February would be one of our strongest months of the year, second only to December," he said.

The store, which has one of the highest transaction rates south of Wellington, relied heavily on the steady flow of foot traffic which would be disrupted, he said.

"We don't have doors to eliminate the disruption, the mess, dust, dirt or noise."

Vaka, formerly The Opal Centre, spokesman Beau Rapley said he was also concerned by the lack of consultation and was asking for a detailed site plan so the business could better understand what the work entailed and when it would be done.

If contractors did trench the street it would be noisy, disruptive and dirty, especially on windy days when retailers would have no option but to shut their doors which wasn't a great way to welcome customers, he said.

"That kind of interference will dramatically affect our trade over that time. People will avoid the area. It should be done in May or June."

Chorus spokeswoman Melanie Marshall said the company had liaised with Queenstown Lakes District Council over the best times to carry out work and had avoided the busy ski season at the council's request. Some streets already had ducts laid, meaning contractors wouldn't need to dig trenches the entire length of the street, but others including Rees and Shotover streets did not, she said.

"Wherever we can we are going to use existing ducts . . . we only dig at the ends and haul the fibre through the existing duct. There will be some disruption but we are working to keep it to a minimum."

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The option of working at night was explored but was not suitable in the resort, she said.

Queenstown Lakes District Council spokeswoman Meaghan Miller said the only advice the council had given Chorus was that it would be near impossible to undertake the work in winter during permafrost.

The council had had no other involvement in the work that she was aware of.

"This is a matter between Chorus and the community. They've got a job to do and our retailers have a living to make during their busiest period. Hopefully they can come to some compromise," she said.

Chorus told The Mirror the most disruptive work would not begin until after the Christmas holiday period.

She said contractors were scheduled to use manholes on Shotover and Rees streets which would put up to three car parking spaces out of action at any one time until they stopped work for the holiday period on December 20.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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