A recommendation by an independent advisory panel to disband the Wanaka Community Board has received a mixed reaction.
At the last review of district representation by the Queenstown Lakes District Council minor changes were made to the Arrowtown ward boundary, but it was also decided a more ‘‘blue sky’’ approach to representation would be considered in a review this year.
QLDC electoral officer Jane Robertson said since then, according to Statistics NZ census data, both the Wanaka and Arrowtown wards had become non-compliant under the Local Electoral Act for fair representation based on ward boundaries and the normally resident population within current or proposed wards.
Council convened a sevenmember advisory group at the start of this year and it had met four times, she said.
The members were Bruce Robertson (independent chairman), Clive Geddes (former QLDC mayor), Professor Janine Hayward (University of Otago), Dean Whaanga (Te Ao Marama), John Glover (Queenstown-Wakatipu ward resident), Viv Milsom and Ian Hall (both Wanaka ward residents).
Recommendations from the group included the creation of three new wards with four councillors representing each ward.
The proposed Whakatipu ward would cover an area west of the Shotover River and the eastern shoreline of the lower part of Lake Wakatipu, and take in the towns of Frankton, Queenstown, Kingston and Glenorchy.
The new Kawarau ward would cover an area east of the Shotover River and Lake Wakatipu, and take in Arrowtown, Arthurs Point (both sides of the Shotover), the Gibbston valley, Lake Hayes, Shotover Country, Jacks Point and Ladies Mile.
The advisory group also recommended the Wanaka Community Board be disbanded.
Ms Robertson said the advisory group noted no other area or community within the district had a community board and the Wanaka-Hawea ward could be more effectively represented by having a total of four councillors elected to the council, potentially reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
Wanaka Community Board chairman Barry Bruce disagreed, saying the Wanaka Community Board should not be disbanded as ‘‘it provided good easy access to elected representatives who can react to concerns and issues quickly’’.
‘‘All of the board members have liaison appointments with community associations and trusts . . .We are not just sitting around the table each month.’’
Mr Bruce said the board was working very well, ‘‘manifested in some of the big community projects it has managed to get over the line such as the Wanaka Lakefront development projects that have been talked about for years.’’
Former deputy mayor and Wanaka Community Board member Lyal Cocks said the Wanaka Community Board represented residents from Makarora, Hawea, Albert Town,the Wanaka, Luggate, Mt Barker and Cardrona and it was ‘‘a nonsense’’ to argue a fourth councillor would better represent this wide area.
He said based on population figures, Queenstown was always going to have more councillors than Wanaka.
Mr Cocks said council staff used to appreciate dealing with the community board and ‘‘anything of strategic significance had to be signed off by the board first and not council staff’’.
Having a community board allowed for more transparency in council decision-making, he said.
Wanaka ward councillor and former Wanaka Community Board member Quentin Smith did not think disbanding the board would reduce representation.
‘‘I am far more effective as a councillor than on the community board, and much better informed to a degree.’’
QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen said the package of changes recommended by the advisory group reflected an ‘‘open and comprehensive consideration of how we can best improve community representation at a council level.
‘‘We recognise this presents some change but want to share this proposal ahead of the council meeting to give people plenty of time to think about how they are represented at a district level and how that can make sure all voices are heard on important issues,” he said.
The recommendations would be presented to the council on June 30, and then go out for community consultation from July 5 and until August 6.
A final proposal would be put to the council in mid-September after formal hearings, the outcome taking effect for the October 2022 local elections, Mr Theelen said.