Councillors vote to keep Frankton Track as is

by Lauren Pattemore - Nov 24, 2023

After record-high submissions during a community consultation and a large reaction on social media, elected members have voted unanimously in favour of keeping the Frankton Track as it is.

At yesterday's meeting of the Queenstown Lakes District Council's infrastructure committee councillors followed the recommendation of council staff to finish the surface of the track with crushed gravel and crusher dust, rather than the alternative proposal to top the track with chipseal.  

Queenstown Lakes District Council infrastructure manager Simon Mason said at the meeting a large amount of the feedback during the consultation period had actually come from people who hadn't even been on the track.

There had been more than 1,200 submissions on the topic from March to May of this year, and Mr Mason said the high number of submissions showed "the power of social media to trigger a lot of feedback".

The council had gotten creative with this consultation process, laying the different forms of chipseal on sections of the track so users could get a feel for each option. However, due to delays because of wet weather the seals were laid at the halfway point of the consultation process, and after 90 percent of overall submissions had already come in. 

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Melissa White admitted she was one of these early submitters who voted without seeing the chipseal laid out first, but put her feedback in "as a user of the track".

"I think for this particular project people felt so strongly about leaving it as it is, because the people who do use it like it as it is because it feels so natural.

"It's a pity the timing was off because the idea of giving people an actual choice to see it is a great idea."

Councillor Cody Tucker also praised council staff on their innovative method of consultation. 

Councillor Craig Ferguson noted the 73 respondents - six percent - who indicated that an unsealed surface was more suited to the natural environment, and helped them feel more connected with nature.

He said this feeling had been echoed at engagements with various community organisations and associations in recent months, where people stressed a desire for the track surface to be "aesthetically suited to the natural environment".

However, Mr Mason noted financial considerations were more important for many when weighing up options.

"It's interesting to see that there was about 25 percent of respondents where their concern wasn't actually around the sealing at all. It was around the fiscal position of the council and where we're prioritising investment," he told councillors.

One of the people that spoke out against sealing the track for financial reasons was Queenstown Trails Trust chief executive Mark Williams, who told Crux in March he didn't think spending money sealing the track was a good idea when there were so many other trails in Queenstown that hadn't been developed yet.

Yesterday, councillors also voted in favour of sealing one section of the track, which is located close to the Perkins Road intersection, at a cost of $35,000, where the track plays the role of footpath along State Highway 6A, or Frankton Road.

This section will be finished with Grade 4/6 chipseal with the intention "to provide an uninterrupted sealed pathway between Frankton and Queenstown", as per the council report presented at the meeting. 

Work to install a new wastewater rising main on a section of the track will happen in 2025, and the resurfacing will coincide with this project.

The item went up for consultation as council noted that there had been inconsistent feedback in the past as to sealing or not sealing this track. 

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