EDITORIAL: #startagroup

Pictured: Michael Ross, chairman of Wanaka Stakeholders Group

This week has been an interesting week for participation. Watching Wanaka unfurl its collective strength and use whatever means necessary to push back against the corporate powers which threaten the way of life in our small town has been energising. 

First, with the Wanaka Community Supporting our Northlake Neighbours showing their cojones by mobilising to take on Winton in the High Court. The tenacity required to embark on such a process is enormous —  you’ve got to be in it for the long haul with a case like that. With months — if not years — of court battles, lawyers fees, court costs and tomes of jargon to wade through, apathy becomes an easy out. But Niamh Shaw and her troupe of courageous campaigners are in it to win it and from what I can tell, they pretty much have the entire population of Wanaka cheering them on. 

The rejection of the Statement of Intent at the council meeting on Monday points to the strength of work done by the Wanaka Stakeholder Group whose public mobilisation has been meteoric. Wanaka is a highly engaged community and this has been proven even more so over the airport issue. Instead of apathy and resignation, Wanaka responded with a call to arms. In a matter of months, WSG has racked up over 2700 members. This is civic participation at its best, and a testament to the strength of participatory democracy. People like Michael Ross and Niamh Shaw who voluntarily give their time and energy are inspiring. Being a keyboard warrior is one thing, but to get off the couch and do something, is another. 

Which leads me to Boult’s statement that support for Wanaka Airport isn’t as strong because he hasn’t been out canvassing (see story page 2). If support for increasing the noise boundary in Queenstown and developing international jet services in Wanaka has a credible amount of support (as he claims) why is there no group, association, or society campaigning to that end? For those that want to see increased air services, then taking a leaf out of Ross and Shaw’s book would be advisable about now —  put your name, face, time and energy behind your beliefs. Having quiet lobbying conversations behind closed doors is everything WSG is campaigning against so in the name of democracy, start a group and campaign for what you believe in. Having two sides to an argument is a good thing, and we are all adults so open dialogue between opposing factions will make for a more robust process than what we have now. #startagroup


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