In response to the overwhelming feedback in 2018 that locals wanted cars out of the lakefront area, and for Ardmore Street to be pedestrianised for a more people-centric place, QLDC is closing the lakefront streets on March 14 -19 for a trial of the idea.
In 2018, over 790 submissions were made to the QLDC Wanaka Masterplan team with many town meetings and face-to-face consultations done. At the time, the feedback was thematically uniform: get rid of the cars, restore the lakefront, and bring a sense of community and belonging.
But whilst the closure may feel good for tourists, the effect on local businesses hasn’t been taken into account according to Caz Cruden, the co-owner of Gifted on Helwick Street. Cruden helped organise a meeting of local businesses last week where concerned business owners discussed the ramifications of closed roads.
“The consensus from everybody is that we’re concerned about total road closure. The other main point is we were concerned about was the lack of consultation and transparency about the closures,” says Cruden.
“There are so many facets to this issue and just putting one sentence ‘we want a pedestrianised lakefront’? What does it mean ‘connecting to the lakefront’? No parking? No roads? One lane or total closure?”
During the trial period, Ardmore and lower Helwick streets will be filled with bouncy castles, beach volleyball, petanque, a cricket pitch and market stalls.
“We are concerned the trial itself is not going to be a true reflection of what it’s going to look like the other 364 days when the fun stuff has been taken away. We want it to be a real trial,” she says.
“If I was to look at other towns the same size as us, [pedestrianisation] doesn’t seem to work. In Hamilton they reinstated parking because it killed retail. We aren’t Queenstown,” says Cruden.
However Peter Hansby, QLDC general manager Property & Infrastructure says that there has been consultation with the business community.
“We engaged with the Wanaka business community through our early insights process back in September. We’re also pleased to have a representative of the business community on the Community Reference Group,” he said.
“In the lead up to the trials, our activation team have been visiting local retailers to discuss logistics and potential opportunities to take part in the trials. While there have been some concerns raised about parking, the response has been largely positive and we have been working closely with them to work through any concerns.”
“There are many benefits of improving the walkability of retail areas, including increased foot traffic, more vibrancy, enhanced accessibility, improved safety and much more. Queenstown Mall was first pedestrianised in the 1970s. Beach Street was pedestrianised formally in 2016 and is fast becoming a bustling area for visitors and locals.”
During the trial, coaches will still have access to the Log Cabin carpark by entering and exiting at the Ardmore Street/Lakeside Road roundabout so people taking public transport throughout the region can still catch their bus from the usual location.
For those wanting to find out more about the Wanaka Town Centre Masterplan and how the street closures could work if permanently installed, a “Hub” tent opposite the Lake Bar and Alchemy will be a space to find information and give feedback about the ideas being explored for the town centre and transport infrastructure.