QLDC's Mike Theelen 'welcomes' decision to put Wānaka breakaway petition to bed

by Kim Bowden - Dec 21, 2023

Queenstown Lakes District Council boss Mike Theelen says there are always "opportunities to enhance established processes" and he "looks forward to engaging more on these in the New Year".

The comments were made after the Local Government Commission delivered a series of recommendations to the council subsequent to it deciding not to proceed with an investigation into a public petition for Wānaka and the Upper Clutha to breakaway from the Queenstown-headquartered council.

In a written statement in response to questions from Crux, Mr Theelen says he "welcomes the decision", which in his view reflects the commission's "appreciation of matters raised through the petition alongside the legislative requirements".

"Several of the commission's suggestions align closely with those made by council earlier in the process, and some reflect changes already underway.

"One example is our investment in digital systems that has enabled greater and more effective use of council venues in the Upper Clutha, such as full council and committee meetings held earlier this month at the Lake Wānaka Centre."

Petition instigator Dean Rankin, whom the commission has specified that the council work with on a plan for improvements moving forward, told Crux earlier this week he wants to ensure any action plan has "real teeth".

However he voiced his concerns about how effective he thinks any process will realistically be, saying, "We don't need more words and spin - we need fundamental change".

More than 1,241 confirmed ratepayers and residents joined the Wānaka man's call to have his side of the Crown Range separate off from the district council, but their years-long bid has been put to bed by this week's decision.

Earlier in the process, in a requested letter to the commission, Mr Theelen said he found "no fundamental failing in governance, service levels or council investment" to warrant a rethink of local government structures in the district. Deputy mayor and Wānaka-Upper Clutha councillor Quentin Smith told Crux at the time some of the wording was "unfortunate" and "unhelpful".

For those who are interested in the detail, the full written decision from the Local Government Commission is available here.

Main image: Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Mike Theelen says 'there’s always room for improvement'.

Read more: Wānaka's breakaway petition dies but QLDC given warning



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