Commission taking Wānaka breakaway petition seriously

by Kim Bowden - Aug 29, 2023

The man behind a petition calling for the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Ward to govern alone and break away from the Queenstown Lakes District is pleased the Local Government Commission is continuing to seek information, despite the council chief executive’s view that ‘there’s nothing to see here’. 

Dean Rankin says the commission has contacted him outlining the next steps after the petition he started attracted more than 1,200 signatures from verified ratepayers. 

“It’s not like case closed; they want more information. They’re still looking into it, and they want everybody’s feelings expressed on it.” 

The commission is now asking to hear the views of the Wānaka-Uppper Clutha Community Board on Mr Dean’s initiative.

Community Board chair Simon Telfer says the board has received a request from the Local Government Commission asking the board for a response to “some high level questions”. 

The topic is on the agenda of the board’s next planning and strategy session, set for Wednesday, September 6. 

Mr Telfer says he has also contacted community associations within the ward, inviting them to provide any comment for the elected members to “reflect on”, if they wish too.

“It's not a topic we have previously discussed.” 

Dean Rankin, the car mechanic from Wānaka who wants to engineer a split from neighbouring Queenstown.

The commission tells Mr Rankin it is also seeking feedback from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu as well as further information from the QLDC.

In recent weeks council chief executive Mike Theelen has questioned the merit of even looking into the proposal, in a letter provided to the commission at its request. 

It is his view the idea his council is in any way Queenstown-centric is simply a perception of people on the Wānaka side of the district, and not a reality based on the track record of the organisation.

In his letter, he details evidence to back his view.

However, the commission is not leaving it there.

In its update to Mr Rankin, the commission says it is going back to Mr Theelen seeking information on alternative methods the council could employ to improve local governance.

“The Local Government Commission, they’re there for us, not the councils - they don’t work for the councils,” Mr Rankin says.

“They’re here to support us ratepayers and residents, more than anything.”

Mr Rankin is also hopeful the commission will take a forensic look at the council’s books too.

He says there’s been some big ticket items – Lakeview and the Queenstown CBD arterial road among them – while other essential infrastructure projects are deferred as well as a mountain of debt, and he wants assurance Wānaka-Upper Clutha ratepayers are seeing value for money.

However, while the commission is charged with investigating any request into a reorganisation of local government authority boundaries, it does not generally have involvement in the setting of rates or investigating complaints about inappropriate spending.

Main image (Diego Arancibia): Welcome to Wanaka.

Read more: QLDC chief executive declares Wānaka breakaway petition has no merit

Watch more: Dean Rankin - the car mechanic from Wānaka who wants to engineer a split from neighbouring Queenstown.

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