Authorities ask what's best for buses and ferries in Queenstown

by Kim Bowden - Sep 18, 2023

With the number of people in Queenstown on any peak tourist day flagged to double, and traffic already a frustration for many, ways in which Queenstowners and visitors might use buses and ferries into the next three decades to get around more easily and efficiently are being nutted out in a collaboration between three authorities. 

The Otago Regional Council, the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Waka Kotahi - together forming 'Way to Go' - are wanting to hear from users and potential future users of existing and still-to-be decided public transport options in and around the Whakatipu Basin as they work to develop a Queenstown Public Transport Business Case.

Put simply, the 'business case' is a public transport plan - with the authorities, and their contracted consultants, looking 30 years into the future to produce it.

A specialist team of transport planners and advisors from WSP New Zealand and Australia, with expertise in both public transport and decarbonisation, are on the case, and now they're ready to include the wider community in their discussion.

There will be several community drop-in sessions and an online survey this month that will focus on what investment decisions will need to be made in the coming decades.

In a media statement, ORC's transport manager Lorraine Cheyne says because Queenstown is one of the country’s fastest growing areas, the transport system is constantly facing growth pressures.

“This engagement is really important because it’s looking closely at how best to use buses and ferries and the investment decisions we’ll all need to make over the next 15-plus years,” Ms Cheyne says.

“We need to create a safe and resilient network where public transport, walking and cycling can mesh together as people’s first transport choice to get around easily and conveniently.”

Use of public transport in Queenstown is still below pre-pandemic levels - 85 percent - but the return of visitors and a growing population have it continuing to trend upwards.

According to the Way to Go alliance, Queenstown's population base per day at peak tourist times is projected to almost double to 204,000 people in 2051, made up of 78,000 residents and 126,000 tourists.

QLDC's transport strategy manager and Way to Go programme manager Tony Pickard says public transport is a hot topic around the Whakatipu Basin. It is his view residents and visitors alike are passionate about greater access to buses and ferries.

“The Queenstown Public Transport Business Case will be an important part of ensuring we make the right investment in the right services for the community,” Mr Pickard says.

“Which is why it’s vital as many people as possible find out more about the public transport proposals we’re putting forward and have their say to make sure we’re considering all our current and potential future users when decisions are made.”

Waka Kotahi regional manager Richard Osborne stresses the importance of the work as well as a desire to provide greater transport options for people in Queenstown and surrounds.

So, what's on the table?

There are currently two preferred options for how to grow a bus network:

  1. Option one is aimed at 'minimal transfers', which is similar to how things work now, where most journeys can be accomplished without having to transfer. It has three routes working together to provide frequent services on Frankton Road (State Highway 6A) between central Queenstown and the Frankton Bus Hub. High-capacity buses will follow routes linking Fernhill to Lake Hayes, and Arthurs Point to Arrowtown.

  2. Option two will have standard buses linking, for example, Fernhill to Arthurs Point, Frankton to Arrowtown, and Frankton to Lake Hayes. A bus exchange will be required for some wanting to access the CBD.

When it comes to ferries, Way to Go is proposing to retain the existing ferry service between Steamer Wharf, Frankton Marina, Bayview, and the Hilton Queenstown, but the frequency and span of services could be improved in the future, it says.

How do I have a say?

Public drop-in sessions are planned for:

  • Thursday, September 21, 10am until 2.30pm , at the Frankton Bus Hub
  • Thursday, September 21, 4pm until 6pm, at the Stanley Street Bus Hub Kiosk
  • Saturday, September 23, 10am until 2pm, at the Arrowtown Community Centre
  • Saturday, September 30, 9am until 2pm, at the Queenstown Market at Steamer Wharf

On hand will be some of the team from WSP to answer questions on their business case and proposed public transport options.

Can't make an event in person? An online public survey can be completed here until Monday, October 2. It can take anywhere from five to 20 minutes to complete, depending on your answers.

Ms Cheyne, of the ORC, says, “We encourage both residents and visitors to the Whakatipu Basin to get involved, find out more about what is being proposed for buses and ferries in the area, and help shape the future of public transport that they want to see and use."




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