My Point of View - Calum MacLeod

by Calum MacLeod - May 12, 2018

What do I think the main issue impacting Wanaka and the Upper Clutha is?

No surprises here - growth! This, combined with the exponential speed of that growth. All other factors - while undoubtedly important in their own right - tend to be associated with this in some form. Examples being: 

- Pressure on infrastructure (growth of town)
- Water quality of lakes and catchments (growth of both tourism and town)
- Quality of drinking water (growth of both tourism and town)
- Wanaka Airport (growth of both tourism and town)
- Housing affordability (growth of town)
- Traffic issues (growth of both tourism and town)
- Freedom camping (growth of tourism)
- Loss of town’s identity (growth of town)
- Parking (growth of both tourism and town)
- Amenity impacts: Mt Iron, Mt Roy, Isthmus Peak (growth of tourism)

When I first arrived in this wonderful wee bit of paradise we are so lucky to be able to call home, it had a population of just over 2500 people. One well informed estimate now has us at around 12,500. 

As far as I am aware, we are living in a democracy. We cannot stop people from coming here. The outstanding beauty and serenity of this fantastic place is an extremely powerful magnet. It is the reason I arrived, stayed, built a home and raised a family. It is the reason we have so many splendid things going on - Aspiring Conversations, Challenge Wanaka, Festival of Colour, the Wanaka Show - to name but a few.

The challenge before us is to make sure the “vibe”, the “essence”, that is this ward stays as true as it is today - no matter the numbers. That, and that the billionaires do not end up chasing out the millionaires, who do not chase out the rest of us.

The challenge is to ensure that Wanaka and the entire Upper Clutha area continues to be the vibrant, wonderful, diverse, connected, caring and special community that it is today.

This is totally achievable!

If I did not firmly believe this, I would not have volunteered to stand for the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC), to work enthusiastically towards tackling this challenge.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it perfectly - “Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

An analogy I have regularly used to describe our fair town is that of an actor starting out on a promising career. Male or female, it makes no odds. The bone structure is perfect. They look stunning. 

Helen Mirren, Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep, or Robert Redford, Pierce Brosnan, Denzel Washington are all over 60. They have aged with grace and style. Others - Mickey Rourke, Keith Richards, Val Kilmer, or Melanie Griffith, Lindsay Lohan, Kirsty Alley - not quite so much!

The path we take and the choices we make will define us. We must define the needs - not the wants. Analyse the options in order to make positive, well informed choices. In order to choose the right path.

We have many examples to learn from - both locally and internationally. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. It is also very important to remember that we are starting from a very good start point.

Indeed, one could say that:

Earth is possibly the lucky planet in the universe.
If so, then New Zealand is the lucky country on that planet.
The South Island is the lucky island in that country.
Queenstown Lakes is the lucky district on that island.
Wanaka is the lucky town in that district.

Essentially we are the lucky town, in the lucky district, on the lucky island, of the lucky country on the entire lucky planet. We have a DUTY to strive to protect that.

We are a district with two main centres of population. Currently we have our big sister - Queenstown - who undoubtedly has the greatest need. This has come about for many reasons - geography, historic under-investment, population and visitor pressure on a grand scale. She is indeed in the greatest need of some TLC.

Over the last four to five years, the background work has been done. The needs have been identified. The options have been analysed. Positive, well informed choices have been made. The Queenstown Town Centre Masterplan is the result. Now the money is being spent. 

We are a bit like a family. Like any family, we will have disagreements. As a family, we have to make decisions on how to make this investment. I do hear that Wanaka/the Upper Clutha (I will state this simply as Wanaka for simplicity) does not get its fair share. I refute this statement.

Wanaka - indeed NZ Inc - has benefited positively from the international success of the “Queenstown” brand for decades. The airport dividend, for example, is worth several hundred dollars per Wanaka ratepayer per annum.

It has been suggested that this Ten Year Plan is a “Queenstown centric” plan. This may appear so, if one does a cursory analysis. However, the facts are that the Wanaka share of total capex costs would be around $207.3m over the 10 years. Of the total plan CAPEX for the 10 years ($976M), that equates to 21 percent.

It’s worth noting that the total includes $327.7 million for the Queenstown Town Centre Masterplan implementation. Wanaka will have its own equivalent investment once the Wanaka masterplan is developed (consultation is starting this year).

If you remove that aspect, you get $648.3 million, of which Wanaka investment at $207.3M is 32 percent. Wanaka is approximately one-third of the district’s population. So the Queenstown Masterplan does skew the picture a lot.

It is also worthy of note that, over the last three years, the QLDC has completed building the brand new Wanaka Recreation Centre on Sir Tim Wallis Drive. This has a couple of indoor courts and all of the necessary changing and showering facilities, an all-weather dual purpose outdoor court for hockey, a number of additional playing fields, loads of parking, excellent meeting rooms and offices. It is very well utilised.

Alongside this is a brand new swimming pool which will be opened in June this year. This will more than double the capacity of the dear old Wanaka Community Pool with two pools - an eight lane swimming pool and a learn to swim pool that is itself almost the same size as the old pool. Together they will provide a level of service that will address the communities’ swimming and swim school needs for many years to come. In all, a total investment of close to $50 million dollars.

Another thing I hear a lot is using the 1/3 - 2/3 model: “x is being spent - we need to spend 1/3 of x.” Well, perhaps – however, without proper analysis of the amounts required we could be selling ourselves short.

A recent example would be the Aspiring Athletics Club. They recently took 34 athletes to compete at a regional tournament in Dunedin. There were four from Queenstown. If we were to apply the “x is being spent - we need to spend 1/3 of x” maxim, we would sell ourselves way short of the actual needs.

The same could be said for soccer. Wanaka has more registered players, in more teams, than Queenstown. Boating - Lake Wanaka takes about two-thirds of the district's boaties over the summer! Wanaka doubled our Winter Olympic medal tally. The Southern Lakes Festival of Colour ... and so on, and so on.

Any investment should be about participation, not population. Needs, not wants!

As W Edwards Deming said - “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

Our challenge will be spending the next few years defining these needs. Generating the data. Doing the “Wanaka Towards 2050” analysis. Completing the Wanaka Town Centre Masterplan process. Completing a Wanaka Airport Masterplan. Getting all of our ducks in a row. Preparing to hit the ground running. It is all about the seven Ps!


We will also have learned a lot of lessons from the Queenstown experience. We will be better for this - as long as we can retain the skill base. It’s all bloody exciting really!

We will also accomplish some good things while working through this process, such as improving Wanaka’s water supply, sorting out the 3-waters needs of Luggate and Hawea, as well as safeguarding and developing the Wanaka foreshore.

When the background work has been done, the needs have been identified, the options have been analysed, positive, well informed choices can been made. The Wanaka Masterplan will be the result. Then we can make SMART investments.

S pecific
M easurable
A chievable
R ealistic
T ime-bound

My advice to us all would be to stay positive, Wanaka. Remember we are still the lucky town, in the lucky district, on the lucky island, of the lucky country on the entire lucky planet.

As Ghandi said;

Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become YOUR WORDS.
Keep your words positive because your words become YOUR BEHAVIOUR.
Keep your behaviour positive because your behaviour becomes YOUR HABITS.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become YOUR VALUES.
Keep your values positive because your values become YOUR DESTINY.#

Calum MacLeod arrived in Wanaka in 1989. He says he has been married to the perfect Kiwi, Andrea Riley, for 30 years. They have two majestical kids, Angus and Ngaio. They developed Wanaka's Paradiso Cinema around 20 years ago. Calum is proud of his BA, becoming a ski instructor, building his home, being a chef, developing Paradiso Cinema, his family and getting elected to the QLDC.  

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