Minister commits $250m to Queenstown's 'pinch point' roads

by Kim Bowden - Apr 04, 2024

The transport minister has announced a more than doubling of the budget to complete upgrades on Queenstown's BP roundabout and connecting roads.

Minister Simeon Brown says his government will deliver $250 million for the planned construction works on States Highway 6 and 6A, an increase on the $115 million that was budgeted for it by the former government.

The announcement was made today in Queenstown, where the minister attended a sod turning ceremony to mark the beginning of what will be four years of construction work to complete the project.

Minister of Transport Simeon Brown announces a $250-million commitment from the government for upgrades to State Highways 6 and 6A through Queenstown.

Minister Brown says his government has been faced with some tough decisions since coming to power, but it had chosen to prioritise the Queenstown roading project as it will "unlock houses" - referring to land flagged for residential development along Ladies Mile - and "support tourism".

He says he has made it clear to project managers he expects the project to be "delivered on time and within budget".

The need for a tightly managed, efficiently run project was a sentiment echoed by Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers, who also had a hand on the spade at today's ceremony.

The mayor says he has been "assured that significant planning has been done to reduce the impact as much as possible".

However he acknowledges the "ongoing local frustration about roadworks" in Queenstown, while refusing to "sugar coat" these latest works.

"There'll be significant disruption at one of our key intersections.

"We've all seen the memes and heard the commentary about road cones. I ask that we all just keep cool, look ahead and keep an eye on the prize."

The works are being delivered for the New Zealand Transport Agency via the Kā Huanui a Tāhuna Alliance in partnership with the Queenstown Lakes District Council - the same alliance driving Queenstown's pricey, problem-plagued arterial road project.

Mark Townsley, the construction manager for the latest project, says there is expected to be little disruption to traffic during the first 18 months of the works, when crews will be "tucked away" on the Frankton golf course, digging holes and working on upgrades to underground services.

There will be some overnight road closures while workers bring those services underneath sections of the roads, and they will be well publicised, he says.

Then things become more complicated as work starts on the roading corridors themselves.

Mr Townsley says the BP roundabout will essentially be shifted twice during latter stages of the four-year project, with temporary roads allowing the ongoing movement of traffic through the intersection.

As many as 44,000 vehicles can make their way through the intersection in a day, making it Queenstown's busiest, and keeping that traffic flowing is the plan.

By the end of the spend, there will be 18 new sets of traffic lights on the two state highways, although a couple of them will just be for controlling pedestrian crossings.

Mr Townsley has no concerns this number of lights will add extra time to journeys, saying the intersections will be monitored by New Zealand Transport Agency staff in Wellington to ensure the phasing of lights is responsive to build ups on the ground and traffic is flowing as best it can.

Traffic lights will replace the BP roundabout, as well as be erected at McBride Street, the Frankton Marina, Goldfield Heights, Hensman Road, Lucas Place, Humphrey Street, Joe O'Connell Drive - that's the the events centre entrance - and Hansen Road.

Also flagged for construction, a roundabout at the intersection of State Highway 6 and Howards Drive.

NZTA's vision: ditching the BP roundabout in favour of traffic lights.

NZTA has stated the project is aimed at providing infrastructure to reduce reliance on private vehicles within the main corridors into and out of Queenstown.

In years to come, road users can expect bus priority measures at intersections, bus lanes, and a larger Frankton bus hub.

Principal transport planner Tony Sizemore says the upgrades will however improve traffic flows for all, despite increasing capacity itself not being a key focus of the investment. 

Mr Sizemore admits coping with Queenstown's growth - both as a result of new residents and increasing tourist numbers - is a constant challenge that is impossible to meet.

"The type of growth we see in Queenstown, we're never going to be able to keep ahead of it."

Meanwhile the minister would not be drawn on whether the government would also stump up money to see through the next stages of the Queenstown arterial road project nor any upgrade to increase capacity over the Shotover Bridge.

However local MP Joseph Mooney says he will be taking the minister on a drive during his time in town to familiarise him with some of the challenges of the roading network.

On Monday morning, contractors are set to start chopping down trees between the Frankton golf course and State Highway 6A, opposite the Frankton bus hub.

Main image: Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chair) Justin Tipa, Southland MP Joseph Mooney, Minister of Transport Simeon Brown and Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers at the sod turning to mark the beginning of work on upgrades to State Highway 6 and 6A in Queenstown.

Read more: The great Queenstown car gamble - will we give up our private vehicles?

The NZTA project page can be accessed here.

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