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Queenstown to push for road funds

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 08:45 06/02/2013

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Queenstown's high growth and visitor rates and importance as a tourist destination will be used as leverage for national roading grants and to attempt to fast-track a new Kawarau Falls bridge.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council's infrastructure committee yesterday decided to use the New Zealand Transport Agency's review of its funding assistance rates as an "in" for pushing the council's case for a bigger slice of road funding, and a pressure point for the replacement of the single lane, 86-year-old Kawarau falls bridge.

Infrastructure committee chairman Lyal Cocks said the council needed help to provide essential infrastructure.

"The council has struggled to provide infrastructure for the large amount of visitors we receive, and we have to ask ourselves how we get more contributions through central government," he said.

The council currently receives 44 per cent of its roading maintenance and operations funding from the agency. A 1 per cent rise in the agency's funding assistance rate would bump the council's roading fund by $150,000.

The Queenstown region's roading network size, coupled with its relatively small population, meant it received a significantly less funding than other areas.

The Invercargill City Council receives 59 per cent funding, while the Dunedin City Council receives 56 per cent and the Central Otago District Council receives 50 per cent roading funding.

The agency will be consulting councils between March and August to set the funding levels for the 2015 to 2018 land transport programme period.

"I believe we need to fight very hard for this because it is one way recouping costs from the central government. It's a big issue and we have to package the big picture," Mr Cocks said.

The committee also decided to send a letter to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee in the hope of fast-tracking a two-lane bridge across the Kawarau River, currently earmarked for construction in 2015 or the following year, which would yield a 2017 or 2018 completion date.

Councillor Trevor Tattersfield, referring to Queenstown Airport's classification of being "nationally significant" by Environment Minister Amy Adams when issuing a notice of requirement to secure land for the airport's expansion, said Queenstown's access routes were equally important.

"If the Government has said Queenstown Airport is of national significance, our access roads should be as well."

It was essential to get ministerial support to speed up the bridge's construction, and exploit all available political means to do so, Mr Tattersfield said.

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However, the committee stopped short of supporting councillor John Mann's quip that Prime Minister John Key's visit to Queenstown this weekend would be an ideal time to picket the bridge with placards, as Mr Key's motorcade would be using the bridge heavily.

- The Southland Times

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