Council, deputy mayor defend Wānaka skatepark CCTV

by Kim Bowden - Mar 08, 2023

The deputy mayor says the council could have done a better job of letting the Wānaka community and its elected representatives know about its plans to install new CCTV cameras in the town.

But he's defending their use, saying they're a vital tool for police in crime fighting.

Deputy mayor Quentin Smith says the council 'does not have a program of surveillance'.

In response to a story published on Crux yesterday Wānaka councillor and deputy mayor Quentin Smith has confirmed there are four sites in the town being targeted by the latest camera roll out.

CCTV is used throughout the district and the location and installation of new cameras within existing budgets are "operational decisions that don't typically have political input", he says.

However, he acknowledges "council could have done better" in communicating its decisions in this case.

The president of the Wānaka Skate Club Olly Burke says club members were surprised the first they knew of a CCTV camera overlooking the town's skatepark was when contractors turned up to install the pole it will rest on last week.

They would have liked someone to chat with them about any problems on the ground and potential fixes, he says.

It feels to skatepark users the council is prioritising "surveillance over safety".

But Mr Smith says the council "does not have a program of surveillance".

"We do work with police, security contractors and council's property team to support CCTV services in our district. These are not actively monitored but are a tool to assist police in enforcement and prosecution for vandalism, assaults and other crimes."  

He says there are tools to help with safety concerns at the public park - one of them being lighting, although he cautions excess lighting is also not welcome.

He wants users of the skatepark to keep the conversation going with authorities on how the space can be improved.

"We encourage the skate club to engage with police and council around continuing to ensure that the skate park is a safe and fun place for all ages. They do a great job and it’s a great facility and long may this continue."

Mr Burke says since the publication of yesterday's story, where he says he'd like to see more proactive engagement with skaters by police, he's been in contact with local staff keen to make that happen, and that's a positive.

Meanwhile, a QLDC spokesperson says the camera at the skatepark isn't completely new - there's already one at the entrance to the Dungarvon Street carpark that overlooks a corner of Pembroke Park including the public toilets and the skatepark.

"This was installed several years ago. We are in the process of moving this camera to obtain a clearer view of the wider area. Hence there is no additional camera."

While this type of CCTV is funded by the ratepayer, the NZ Police has access to footage to help with its investigations as required, the spokesperson says.

"To this end, we met with Wānaka police in June last year to discuss the locations and rationale of CCTV in the township as well as some proposed changes - like the move of pole position outlined above.

"The rationale for the camera overlooking that corner of Pembroke Park remains unchanged, namely crime prevention and identification of potential offenders; there have been issues in the past relating to theft and drug use in this area."

The new sites in Wānaka were publicly notified late last year - in the Otago Daily Times and the Southland Times newspapers - they say.

"Whilst we recognise we could certainly have informed Wānaka Skate Club earlier given the location of the new pole, this particular project is about moving an existing camera overlooking a very similar area.

Council staff have echoed the sentiments of the deputy mayor, saying they "welcome dialogue" with users of the park moving forward.

"The use of CCTV and other safety measures at this location – if deemed necessary – are not mutually exclusive."

Interested in knowing where the council's CCTV cameras are located across the district? There's a map available online here alongside the council's CCTV Policy.

Read more:

No consultation again: CCTV rolls out in Wānaka

QLDC not answering Glenorchy CCTV questions

QLDC presses pause on Glenorchy CCTV to talk with locals

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