Queens Drive – The Town Belt Lost?
The Dunedin Amenities Society first raised the issue of the alteration to Queens Drive in 2005-2006 after the City Council’s Transportation Planning Department unilaterally altered the road without public consultation in 2004-2005. Since then the Amenities Society have watched as the roadway has become a car park for both local school pupils and city commuters. What’s the issue with that people might ask, isn’t it a road? Isn’t that what the roads are for? Firstly, it isn’t a legal road, in fact there are no legal roads within the Town Belt, they are still legally part of the Town Belt Reserve. Secondly, it’s part of a historic scenic drive that provides vehicle and pedestrian access within the Town Belt so that the whole reserve can be traversed in a northerly and southerly direction. Thirdly, the Town Belt is an important part of Dunedin’s environmental and landscape heritage which was formed as part of Charles Kettle’s survey of the City in 1848. There are only two other similar Town Belt’s of their type in the world, one in Adelaide, Australia and the other in New Zealand’s capital Wellington (though it could be argued that Port Chalmers also has a Town Belt). This gives the Town Belt heritage status as part of the very earliest formation of the Dunedin settlement. Combine those historic links to early Dunedin and the ‘Belt’s outstanding landscape and ecological connections and you have a something that is rare and worthy of protection rather than being turned into a car park.
The unilateral decision by the City Council’s Transportation Planning Department to alter such an important site without consideration to those values has added significant pressure to the site and has taken away the core use of the area as a scenic route. What has also added further pressure on the Town Belt is the influx of commuter use for “free parking” around core entry areas to the city centre as well as an increase in vehicle use by residents of University flats. Looking at the City Council’s 2008-2018 Parking Strategy its easy to see why the continued pressure on suburban streets and reserves continues. Key components of the Parking Strategy are increasing the costs of inner city parking coupled with a reduction or removal of free parking. This adds pressure to wider areas of the city as drivers compete for commuter parking. The need to reduce traffic, emissions and vehicle use in the inner city is an admirable environmental and streetscape goal of the Parking Strategy. However, the Parking Strategy has still not succeeded in reducing the volume of commuter traffic entering the city, rather it has pushed that traffic further afield. Combined with the failure of the Strategy’s “Rideshare” programme and the city’s inability to provide a coordinated, efficient and affordable public transport system, the effects of commuter parking has been exacerbated outside of the central city.
The Society’s view is that the portion of Queens Drive above Littlebourne has always been an integral part of the Town Belt and should be available to be traversed safely and appropriately. However, it has taken 6-7 years of trying to make the Council understand that the approach undertaken by Transportation Planning was unacceptable, and quite contrary to what the purpose of the Town Belt is for. The Society can only hope that this issue will be rectified in the next Community Development Committee meeting held on June 11th. (Committee Report)