Strong pushback to sealing the Frankton Track

by Lauren Pattemore - Mar 15, 2023

The council is proposing to put chipseal over the Frankton Track, but many users are asking for the funds to be distributed elsewhere.

Mark Williams, the Queenstown Trails Trust chief executive, is one them.

“My biggest concern is this investment into existing infrastructure that isn't required now.”

Mark Williams of the Queenstown Trails Trust wants to see more trails before existing ones are developed.

He says there isn't yet trails from Jack’s Point, Arthurs Point or the Lake Hayes Estate to link to the Frankton Track.

It's his view developing cycling trails for these areas would “create behavioural change” and allow more active transport in the town.

“Why on earth would we go on meddling with an existing trail that works perfectly well, when there's a whole lot of trails that we desperately need and haven't been built? That's my biggest pet peeve.”

For Mr Williams, there’s also safety concerns surrounding a sealed track, as the paved surface track will increase cyclists' speed and potentially increasing the risk of accidents on the track.

“There is an awful lot of the community who use it (Frankton Track) recreationally for running or just going for a walk around the lake. Turning that into a fast, busy commute route doesn't sit particularly comfortably with me.”

Although, he notes there’s “another school of thought” that allowing the sealed track may encourage more people out of their cars and engaging in active transport.

In his opinion, the best solution would be to create a separate boardwalk for cyclists and commuters, but notes that comes at a higher cost.

“I think it's pretty important that the community has a say on this and it sounds like most of the community doesn't want to see it sealed.”

Matteo Ughi enjoys that the gravel track looks natural, but wonders if a sealed track would be easier to ride on.

The council’s asking the question "Would it be more appealing to walk or cycle to work via the Frankton Track if it was sealed?".

On the council's social media page, it's posted a link to a survey, announcing there'll be sections of the track with the different chip seals laid out for people to experience, with signage and QR codes to the survey at the spots also.

However, a more recent update says the trial's "a little delayed", due to machinery issues, and now sections of the track are expected to be laid with the three chipseal options being proposed later this week.

The QLDC is yet to confirm when the trial seals will be down, and how much sealing the total 7.3-kilometre track will cost.

The to-seal-or-leave-unsealed debate has garnered plenty of engagement online, with more than 307 commenters to the council's post. As one user notes, most are opposed.

"There are so many other projects that need the time and money spent on them. Hopefully QLDC will take note of all the comments, at a glance I'd say over 90 percent are opposed to this."

Aimee Liddington, out on a afternoon walk, says the gravel track means she feels more connected with nature.

Out on the track yesterday afternoon users were voicing similar sentiments, saying they enjoyed the gravel.

Matteo and Keno Ughi, who regularly use the trail to get to work, say they're aware of the council's proposal and aren't big fans of it.

“I’d prefer unsealed because it’s more natural,” Mr Ughi says. Ms Ughi agrees.

But he does note it may be “less hard work” to ride if it was sealed. 

Aimee Liddington’s lived in Queenstown for seven years, and on Tuesday she was out on the track on an afternoon walk.

The gravel track means she “feels more connected to the outdoors”, she says.

“There’s something about being on gravel, it’s nicer underfoot than concrete."

The Aphasia Cycle Group out on a ride Tuesday afternoon, Annette Rotherham (far left) notes it'd be 'pretty expensive' to seal.

From the Aphasia Cycle Group, who tried out the trail on a visit from Christchurch, Annette Rotherham notes “it’s a pretty good track” and questions the necessity of paving it.

“The gravel adds to it, you feel quite close to nature,” Ms Rotherham says.

She's also questioning the expenditure: “It’s a lot of money to seal the track.”

Two blokes from Sydney were out enjoying the trail and how the gravel track “blended with the natural environment”.

They both reckon we've got it good in New Zealand in terms of bike tracks, and they note the local council is willing to invest in its tracks.

“There’s nothing like this in Sydney,” one biker says, referring to the Frankton Track.

Another visiting cyclist says they can see the merit in sealing, especially as it would make it more accessible for wheelchair users and other modes of transport.


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