Lakefront closure divides opinion

Pictured: Visitors and residents take advantage of the car-free zone during the Wanaka town centre trial. | Photo: Quentin Smith

The recent trial closure of the lakefront has divided locals into those who love it and those who hate it, almost in equal measure if debate around town is anything to go by. There were heated exchanges online where critics and supporters battled it out; mostly over traffic and parking with a number of voices in support for local retailers who have reported material suffering through the experiment.

Businesses on lower Helwick Street reported they were down 12-41 percent over the same time period as last year. On Ardmore Street, Snack Shack Kebabs reported it was down 50 percent over the trial period. Businesses affected by the pedestrianisation are calling for council to assess the trial’s impact on all stakeholders.

QLDC Councillor Quentin Smith says, “While there were some quiet periods, having been in town much of the weekend there were no shortage of people in the streets overall, to say otherwise isn’t accurate. Data is more accurate than feelings however and I await the feedback including trading data from tenants.”

Many online comments involved vehement criticism of QLDC for implementing something that no one wanted, without realising that the trial was a response to the overwhelming feedback to last year’s consultations where locals requested a pedestrianised lakefront with no cars.

Dorothy Dempster who is a long-time local, loves the idea.

“Yes, it’s [pedestrianisation] desperately needed but I think the trial has been badly done,” she says. “I’ve been here 50 years and the town has changed and people have to expect it to change. But [with the lakefront pedestrianised] I would be proud of how our town would look.”

Parking and traffic management seemed to illicit the most negative feedback rather than the actual closure of the lakefront itself. Jon Bull, from Lake Hawea says, “These changes are geared for tourists and people that provide tourist businesses. I don’t know where they are going to put the parking.”  

Ian and Fiona Aitken say they are concerned about traffic being pushed from Lakeside Drive to Brownston Street, so that people divert through Upton, Tenby and Warren streets.

“These streets are congested already with cars and there are a lot of kids on these streets,” says Fiona Aitken. “It looks like what they are building is for tourists, not locals. It will all be high-end cafes and restaurants and tourist shops and locals get pushed out to Three Parks. We live 5km out of town so coming into town and seeing the view is a highlight. But if all our services such as groceries and banking will be in Three Parks then we will miss the most beautiful part of living in Wanaka.”

A council representative says, “We’ve heard a range of views on the activation trials in Wanaka Town Centre over the weekend which is fantastic. Although we’d like to acknowledge there is some work to be done in collaboration with the local retailers if pedestrianisation is to be considered permanently in the future.”   
“It’s important to note that if the area was to be permanently pedestrianised, solutions to improve access and parking would be implemented prior. We are suggesting some ideas for how that might work through the Masterplan options currently out for feedback.”
“Feedback on the Masterplan options closes on March 31 so we encourage people to take a look online at and have a say. The feedback will be collated and analysed following that. No recommendation on whether to permanently pedestrianise the area will be made until the Masterplan is complete later in the year.”  



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