$150 million 'arterial' project – is it really the road to Lakeview?

by Peter Newport - May 02, 2023


Crux has been puzzled for a couple of years now about the ratepayer spend on what the Queenstown Lakes District Council calls the “arterial road project”.

Given that many businesses, residents and retailers have pretty much abandoned the current CBD in favour of Frankton, it’s hard to see why ratepayers are paying for such a massive bypass that involves knocking down the community funded Memorial Centre and “creating shovel ready jobs” in the current climate of low unemployment and zero worker accommodation.

But is this actually a bypass? Fernhill and Glenorchy are clearly on the southern side of the CBD, and town can get congested, but this is a bypass of such monumental cost (the estimate is around $150 million) and proportions that it begs the question – why? This is an important question as QLDC tries very hard to get us to stop using our cars and use either bikes or public transport. 

The first stage of the arterial road, currently being constructed, underwent a budget blowout from $49.5 million to $86.6 million with QLDC's ratepayers picking up around 50% or more of that cost. 

That big white space - revealed. Is this the main purpose of the arterial road project?

QLDC is hinting that more cost increases will be announced this week following a public excluded discussion at last week’s full council meeting. This follows a $15 million increase in “trunk infrastructure projects” announced in March. Many observers see these as actually Lakeview costs being funded by ratepayers but with QLDC saying this is part of broader infrastructure work that needs doing anyway.

QLDC's graphics show the new arterial road replacing the current Memorial Centre - but try to find any glimpse of Lakeview and you'll find nothing.

The QLDC PR machine pretty much claims that tens of millions of ratepayer money is being spent on general infrastructure upgrades that just happen to benefit the Aussie developers of the billion-dollar Lakeview property development that is already costing ratepayers north of $80 million before any significant cash comes in from the developers. There's already been a rates rise linked to Lakeview costs.

A study of the arterial road plans reveals a very, very large, white space (see main image above) right in the middle of the grand scheme. In fact, the new “mega road” appears to have this big white space as its main destination.  We can eliminate any uncertainty by revealing the obvious – this white space is Lakeview.

So, is the arterial project with its hard to decipher price tag simply Lakeview Drive? It certainly looks that way.

QLDC's latest look at whether Lakeview will produce a return for the ratepayer - or just be a cost. The margin is getting slimmer on a regular basis - and of course there's no guarantee that future returns will be received, and "capital costs" may not tell the full story. See below. Source: QLDC

If capital costs include $20 million of Lakeview "ancillary projects" it starts to look like the ratepayers are the losers, while the developers make a large fortune. Source: QLDC.

Why is Lakeview not referenced in all of the fancy plans and graphics? It’s a billion-dollar development smack in the middle of the new road, but the documents bypass any clear reference to Lakeview. This 118-page Business Case document that justifies the arterial road project does not contain one reference to Lakeview.

And the upcoming announcement from the QLDC connected to last week’s public excluded council session - Will it be another Lakeview price increase?

It won’t be long at this rate for local residents to be funding $100 million of real immediate costs for the developers to perhaps pay back in 20 year’s time – or not.

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