Wanaka will be listened to and heard: Election promises as candidates grilled
Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult announced the lease on Wanaka Airport will be released tomorrow (Tuesday) in full and post-election he’ll look to appoint a Wanaka-based council staffer charged with getting things done.
Mayor Boult made the promises to an approximately 150-strong crowd at tonight’s Ignite Wanaka Business Chamber meet-the-candidates event.
Alongside him on stage: mayoral challengers Nik Kiddle and Al Angus, plus 10 Wanaka ward and community board candidates, all who had a strict two minutes to sell themselves to voters before answering off-the-cuff questions supplied by chamber members.
Kick-starting proceedings, the mayor says in the coming term he’ll give Wanaka a greater focus.
“To enable that, post-election I will ask councilors to support a new leadership position within council responsible for all matters Upper Clutha.”
Plus, he will make regular, scheduled trips to the town, he says.
“You’ve always been able to meet me, but I’ll make it easier and I’ll come to you.”
His challenge to Wanaka: Figure out what you want to be.
“Help us develop one vision for your town…Together we can do great things, but we need a common goal.”
He backs his proposed visitor levy, saying for ratepayers it’s a fairer way to fund infrastructure.
“Don’t allow it to be messed with. We’ve one chance.”
Meanwhile, mayoral hopeful Nik Kiddle made it clear where he will do things differently to Boult, and on the visitor levy, he says council can do better.
“I believe we need to strive for absolutely the best visitor levy mechanism. Not one that’s simplistic, not one that makes life easier for bureaucrats in Wellington, but one that really works for us. One that will deliver even more money than the council’s current proposal.”
He’s promising more inclusive, open and transparent governance, and the withdrawal of the QLDC’s application for permission to pollute waterways for the next 35 years.
On the topic of airports, he says the community deserves a much stronger voice in decision-making. He proposes convening an “airport summit”, gathering together government, business and community interests to best navigate a way forward.
Straight-shooter Al Angus was the final mayoral candidate to take the mic.
“If you put me at the head of the table, you put yourself at the head of the table. This is not a sales pitch - It’s just a fact, plain and simple. That’s why I’m here, because I’m usually out there.”
The six candidates vying for three Wanaka ward seats around the council table, Barry Bruce, Lincoln Haworth, Calum MacLeod, Niamh Shaw, Quentin Smith, and Cherilyn Walthew were grilled on active transport, affordable housing, and connectivity (air, road and online) during their question time.
All agreed encouraging people onto bikes by providing good infrastructure made sense for Wanaka.
But, according to Barry Bruce, “vehicles are here to stay” and had to be planned for.
Calum MacLeod says he was approached by concerned locals after a Probus-organised election meeting. They implored: “Don’t forget about me.” An increasing ageing population of residents need to be able to reach the lake and park cars, he says.
Niamh Shaw, who says with a seven and a five-year-old in tow she often relies on her car, suggests resident parking permits could ensure locals aren’t put-out by any efforts to de-clog the downtown.
Cherilyn Walthew, who resides at Lake Hawea, says she doesn’t think the focus should be on just one or the other, and the priority needs to be the town’s spatial plan, as transport routes will be laid on top of that.
On the question of what can be done about affordable housing, Quentin Smith says local struggles sit within a national context. He, along with other council hopefuls, praised the work of the Queenstown housing trust.
“There’s been a wealth of really good work done…That’s the start of that work. We need to do more.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Lincoln Haworth, born and bred in Wanaka, says he’s part of a generation that will struggle to ever own a property in the area.
He supports smarter, denser housing options and is keen to investigate levying empty houses and unoccupied land, citing successful off-shore examples.
Cherilyn Walthew agrees with Haworth diversity in housing options is part of the answer, and density needs to mean more than “same house on smaller section”. She lists tiny houses and small-scale “chalet” apartments as innovative alternatives.
Six candidates are campaigning for four available seats on the Wanaka Community Board. Absent from tonight’s proceedings, Jude Battson.
However, Barry Bruce, Lyal Cocks, Barbara East, Chris Hadfield, and Ed Taylor, took to the stage, fielding questions on how to ensure the community board has a strong voice council will listen to, what sustainable growth looks like, and community engagement.
Barry Bruce says it’s vital board members have the power to decide what goes on meeting agendas.
“Currently, under the QLDC standing orders for the Wanaka Community Board is that the agenda for the community board meetings is set by a salaried member of the council.
“Some people feel that the community board are not representing the community and I can understand why.”
Ritual Café owner Chris Hadfield says board members have to be in charge of what is going to be discussed at their own meetings, as determined by feedback from the community they represent.
“It’s as simple as that.”
Barbara East, a former Wanaka-based council staffer who worked to support the community board, says in her experience no local issue should ever bypass the board.
“So everything that was of local interest came to the board first…that was the way it worked. It’s actually quite simple.”
On consultation, East says council needs to be tech-savvy, taking advantage of innovative apps to engage younger residents.
Chris Hadfield says consultation needs to be more than simply online or at drop-in sessions.
“There’s a lot of people who aren’t tech-savvy or are too busy.”
Lyal Cocks says community members need to “get off their butt” and be active in the community, putting themselves in front of the people they represent.
While Barry Bruce says “it’s a two-way street” and the onus is also on ratepayers and residents to keep themselves informed.
For Ed Taylor, meaningful consultation is a tough thing to get right, especially in Wanaka where they’re plenty of engaged people.
“There’s this huge, wide diversity of views, so we do try to listen to all those different views and the community board does tend to bring those to the table. We discuss it, we thrash it round, and we try to make a decision based on what we think with all the feedback we’ve had.”
But people have to accept, the decision won’t go their way all of the time, he says.
All 13 on stage were asked their view on Wanaka Airport expansion.
Community board candidate Chris Hadfield and council ward candidate Lincoln Haworth both received hearty applause for stressing Invercargill airport be developed as a gateway international airport for the region.
In their answers, most candidates agreed Wanaka’s growth will demand regional air connections, and the community needed to be well-informed to meaningfully engage in discussions.
Would-be mayor Nik Kiddle says a consensus outcome is needed: “We need to have this conversation together…We need you at the table.”
Some cautioned Wanaka didn’t want to shut the door on any options, especially as advances in aviation technology means no one knows what might be just around the corner for the industry.
And, on the subject of getting around, strong support from many candidates for public transport in Wanaka, espcecially during peak travel times, with Mayor Jim suggesting it will happen in the coming term. It will ease congestion and "make it a hell of a lot easier for families", he says.
Election papers started arriving in letterboxes on Friday and voters have until 12pm on Saturday, October 12 to have their say.
Main Image: Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult says Wanaka can expect a greater focus if he's re-elected to mayor.