AS visitor numbers for Southland increase, Lumsden is becoming a critical junction again, but this time for road rather than rail users.
Lumsden Community Development Area Subcommittee chairman Rob Scott said because of the town’s location, about an hour by road from Queenstown and a convenient stopping point en route to Milford Sound, the town had noticed exponential growth in visitor numbers over the past few years.
“It’s good for us, but it also puts a demand on our services – we’ve got to meet the need to stay a feasible place for people to visit.”
Mr Scott said Lumsden toilets and car park project was planned to begin before March, subject to the Government agreeing to supply 50% of the funding from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
Data collected by Venture Southland via the Geo Zone app (used by travellers) concerning routes travelled in the region showed about 10,000 tourist vehicles visited Lumsden in 2015. This increased almost 50%, up to nearly 15,000 tourist vehicles last year.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) had also provided the Southland District Council (SDC) with daily regular vehicle counts for Lumsden.
The NZTA numbers showed that in 2015 about 10,000 vehicles had travelled through Lumsden daily on their way to or from Five Rivers, Mossburn, Winton and Gore, but in 2016 this number had risen 15% to almost 11,500 vehicles.
The Lumsden Community Authority (LCA) said in a report to the SDC people were not just passing through, but were using Lumsden as a stopping point on their journeys.
The car park at the historic railway precinct, which was unsealed and therefore could not be marked for parking, was becoming unmanageable and needed to be upgraded, the report said.
The LCA also reported between October 2015 and April this year up to five tour buses were stopping at the Lumsden toilets daily.
SDC chief executive Steve Ruru said the council had intended to upgrade the car park and toilets at the town’s historic railway precinct in the 2018-19 financial year, but had decided to move the project forward.
The council also decided to bring forward a total of 65 projects throughout the region (costing more than $6 million), and while some of these were “business as usual”, many were related to the need to upgrade infrastructure in response to growing visitor numbers, he said.
Other projects green-lighted for faster completion included a $1,894,717 sealing of a section of the Southern Scenic Route in the Catlins because of increased traffic flows.
New entrance signs and a feature for Manapouri, and new entrance signs for Te Anau, were also planned, although no designs had yet been agreed to, he said.
Mr Ruru said the SDC would also fast-track a $175,305 upgrade of the Otautau camping ground, with new ablution block and kitchen, huts and chalets, and sewerage connections.