Wanaka’s Community Board is set to get a reprieve today when the Queenstown Lakes District Council meets.
Following a wave of opposition to its proposal to dump the board at the next election, culminating in a petition to break away from QLDC altogether, the council will vote on a recommendation that it keep the Board (WCB) - with a change in its composition.
Wānaka Sun readers will be able to see the debate live on Zoom by following links from the council’s home page www.qldc.govt.nz – and the Sun will post a story from that meeting on our website www.thewanakasun.co.nz
Under the proposal which follows a consultation process, the Board would from next year’s election carry on with one Wanaka-Upper Clutha Ward councillor instead of the present three.
Because of the population growth in Wanaka, it is also proposed that the Wanaka-Upper Clutha Ward get another QLDC Councillor, taking the total number to four.
This change recognises that although the whole Queenstown Lakes District is growing, Wanaka and the surrounding towns are growing faster than the Whakatipu Basin.
On the other side of the Crown Range it is proposed that four Councillors be elected in the Queenstown-Whakatipu Ward and three elected in a new Arrowtown-Kawarau Ward. The mayor will continue to be voted for across the whole district, bringing the total number of QLDC Councillors to eleven and mayor.
Retaining the WCB and reducing the number of QLDC Ward Councillors from three to one will allow WCB to have a stronger local voice. Once elected to QLDC, Councillors are legally obliged to consider the greater good of the whole district, rather than representing just the needs of Wanaka and the Upper Clutha.
Critics of the Wanaka Community Board have argued that it is not effective enough. Going forwards, WCB chairman, Barry Bruce is keen to see changes to strengthen the WCB, giving it “a much more meaningful role in local government.”
“The response from the community strongly wanting to retain the WCB has sent a very clear signal to QLDC that Wanaka wants more autonomy, wants change.”
Bruce is in favour of reducing the number of QLDC Ward Councillors on the WCB.
“With just one of the QLDC Councillors sitting on the WCB, there should be more opportunity for open discussion, without the WCB members being overridden by the councillors,” he says. “It would be helpful too if WCB members could sit in on QLDC committee meetings to better understand what’s going on.”
When it comes to money, Bruce also wants to see changes, starting with an increase to the WCB’s Minor Improvements Budget (MIB). Recently the WCB asked for their MIB to be increased from $1.4million to $5million. QLDC has come back with an offer of $2million.
“We need a much more meaningful amount,” says Bruce. “I would like to see it tagged to our rate take and increased accordingly.”
Currently the WCB is kept in the dark as to what revenue is generated from the Wanaka-Upper Clutha Ward.
“We would like an executive summary of how much QLDC income is being generated over here and how it is being applied,” he says.
Bruce would also like to see the Wanaka Reserves Land Sales Fund administered by the WCB, not QLDC. Originally $15million, some of this fund has gone towards the Sport and Recreation Centre and $1million has gone to the Luggate Hall, but Bruce believes that the remaining funds should be handled by WCB.
Bruce is also concerned about the lack of clarity in the Governance Protocol Statement between QLDC and WCB. “A review of the statement and the WCB delegations would be a good starting point,” he says.
There has been concern at the level of consultation by QLDC with the WCB on policy changes.
This was highlighted by the debate over the Wānaka Airport and the change to the 40km speed limit in Wanaka.
“We should be part of any discussion on significant policy changes,” says Bruce.
When it comes to QLDC staffing, Bruce would like to see a different spread of staff across the district. At present most of the full-time QLDC staff are based in Queenstown and a handful work out of Wanaka.
“There are around 450 full-time staff in Queenstown and just 12 in Wanaka,” he says.