Arrowtown councillors opt for face-to-face over Facebook

by Lauren Pattemore - May 29, 2024

After comments on communuty Facebook groups have spiralled recently, the Arrowtown-Kawarau ward's three councillors have decided to counteract and give residents a chance to chat with them in person.

And they're making themselves available twice a month.

Their face-to-face meetings kick off this Friday (May 31) at the Arrowtown Library from 11am until midday, with another one set for Tuesday at the Fork and Tap from 6.30pm until 7.30pm. 

It's an idea that the councillors have floated for a while, but after seeing what Councillor Lisa Guy called "vitriol" online twice this month following the announcement of Arrowtown's pedestrianisation trial and the installation of new planter boxes and bike racks, it gave them the incentive to meet with people in person.

On a local post about the Arrowtown planter boxes and bike racks, a range of different sentiments were expressed in the 118 comments, with some people caught by surprise by the changes, others not keen on the aesthetics of the additions and their cohesion with the rest of the old-time street, and others unhappy with they believed was a lack of consultation.

Councillor Melissa White says it's hard to have a conversation with people on Facebook, and she says the situation "did feel like it got out of control".

"With Facebook, it can sometimes be really useful, sometimes it can be really hard to get messages across.

"There is just something that happens when it's online."

Councillor White notes that disinformation can also spread on Facebook too. 

She says these twice-monthly sessions will give people a chance to ask them questions face-to-face. 

Councillor Guy says part of her motivation also comes from being at a community event last month, and speaking afterwards with elder residents, people who aren't using social media, and they told her "we don't see you, we don't see what's happening". 

As the world moves increasingly online, Councillor Guy notes that there are still those in the community who don't engage on social media platforms and what is planned reflects how local representatives used to make themselves available at the local library.

She says there will be no agenda for these meetings and the community can raise anything they like.

"I look forward to seeing whoever comes along."

The morning sessions are planned for the last Friday of the month at the library, while the evening sessions will be the first Tuesday of the month at the pub.

Councillor Craig Ferguson was approached for comment. 

Main image (Facebook/Melissa White - Councillor Queenstown Lakes District Arrowtown Kawarau Ward): The three Arrowtown-Kawarau ward councillors, Craig Ferguson, Lisa Guy and Melissa White.

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