By now you should have your voting papers and are charged with ticking boxes beside names you may or may not know, names that will spend a whole lot of your hard earned cash on things you’re not that sure about. During the course of this campaign, I’ve tried to make it a little clearer what we at ORC are responsible for and also my positions on various matters. In this missive, I’ll bring those together and discuss my own platforms and concerns. Plus a bit about campaigning conundrums.
First a ‘splainer about what ORC actually does.
Over the course of the campaign, several issues were raised. I've done my best to explore or explain the issues and my stance with a series of short and not so short ‘splainers.
This one on the Lake Onslow proposal:
And, after a testy moment in an otherwise friendly Greens meeting, I needed to get clear on my thoughts around the Tarras Airport proposal:
Inevitably, the questions around ORC dysfunction had to be addressed:
Water matters, grrrr. Every time it rains, sediment pours into the creeks and waterways of places like Wānaka where there are high levels of earthworks and development and also further down the catchment as a result of all sorts of landuse. This chokes the local fauna and seriously damages already vulnerable ecosystems. Wānaka people have exhausted their patience trying to get QLDC and ORC to act when sediment and worse pours into their waterways. We have pushed for, and now funded more ‘boots on ground’ to deal with these issues. But we're yet to see the improvement that should be coming.
Then there’s the Manuherekia, double, triple grrrrr. We have a land and water plan to deliver for notification by end 2023. It WILL have minimum flow levels. We need to have those levels high enough to restore river health. Current demands on that river are unlikely to be fully met. Te Mana o te Wai compels us to put the health of the river above all other priorities. I am committed to this in the full knowledge that their will be economic implications and difficulties for people who rely on more water access than might be healthy for the river. We need to look into alternative ways of supporting those people as they transition to either lower water needs, or ways of storing water that will allow both much higher minimum flows and consistent water access. I have no doubt this will be difficult. I would remind us all that there is no policy setting allowing us to delay for more science, we are obliged to act on the information we currently have even if it’s not complete. Please do acquaint yourself with our obligations:
Bus services. These have caused me major headaches because I'm a bus user, committed to climate action and have worked hard to improve services. But bus services in both Queenstown and Dunedin have gone backwards, COVID a near fatal blow. And poor Wānaka hasn't had a look in with promised services there. In fact they've had such a poor response from ORC that they've gone and put their own trial together. Good luck, best wishes and please Wānaka people get on this bus. This video directly addresses the major issue we have in providing bus services. Queenstown is worse affected than Dunedin, but there are problems in both areas. The roots are deep, but Covid was the final straw – no more immigrant drivers, not paying drivers enough, a global driver shortage all of this meant we couldn’t deliver the timetable. A reduced timetable was supposed to ensure reliability. But frankly, it hasn’t and people have been left where they shouldn’t be, walking for miles, late for school or work and all the consequences of the bus not showing up. Our response has been poor and my best efforts haven’t delivered a better scenario. In fact my complaints too have often fallen on deaf ears. I'm calling for a standing committee that brings together ORC, DCC and QLDC to sort this out - together. I reckon some traction is being found:
A couple of really short messages:
Finally, an overall concern for me is the deep chasm bet ween community expectation and ORC delivery, so, first we need to get those fundamentals in place for every aspect of our operations. That starts with better communication. So easy to say so hard to deliver. This is very clear in delivery of Public Transport but also in pest control, water management and all other areas of ORC operation. A couple of key points: We cannot deliver better services on lower rates. We cannot fix all the problems of our future so beware those that say we can. Our role is well outlined and the best way for us to deliver it is to understand our communities and to move forward guided by values, the work of an excellent staff team, and the best understanding we can have of our ecological limits.
If you would like more detail on my policies and thinking, you can have a good look at this site, policy.nz set up by The Spinoff.
If you still have some reading in you, below are my speech notes that I've used for different campaign settings:
Ko Kawarau te maunga, Ko Kawarau te awa, Ko Whakatipu te roto, te manu hou au. Kawarau is the mountain, Kawarau is the river, Whakatipu is the lake, I'm the new bird.
I’ve lived in Queenstown for nearly 40 years and have served one term on ORC and two on QLDC. I am a facilitator of Masters programmes in my day job.
The last 3 years have been quite the experience at ORC with very public fails and not so public wins. Your rates have gone up 56% on average over that time. You may be grumpy about that and wondering what you are seeing for it. Here’s a high level summary.
About 35% is for government mandated work including the Land and Water Plan and the Regional Policy Statement. If more and better work around this had been done previously, it wouldn’t be such a shock now. Make sure you take part in the fresh water management unit and other consultations to get your money’s worth!
The rest is for things we really want like an Otago Lakes Plan, waterway restoration, biodiversity enhancement and more monitoring and compliance across everything we do. It’s this work that allows us to respond to community calls for things like: looking into Contact Energy’s resource consent conditions for the Kawarau Arm of Lake Dunstan, push along work on Lake Hayes restoration, help fund pest control initiatives, supplying knowledge and science to drive business and funding cases...
Key issues for me to work on over the next triennium should you re-elect me:
Better climate and biodiversity action
ORC is concentrating on adaption by identifying natural hazards and building community resilience. We need to put much more effort into mitigation which is about taking action to reduce the activities that will continue to make climate change worse.
I’ll call for a region wide Climate and Biodiverisity Action Plan. QLDC has one which I’ve worked on for the past couple of years as part of the Climate Reference Group. This needs regional support.
Better water health
I expect us to commit to the implementation of Te Mana o te Wai and other environmental directions. Not doing so puts economy ahead of environment and builds an environmental debt our children and grandchildren will pay.
I call for much greater compliance and enforcement to prevent damage to waterways through failure to sediment or nutrient trap.
I am Chair of the regional transport committee, but bizarrely this committee is not responsible for the bus services. However, I’ve championed Public Transport delivery through some pretty trying times.
I’ll call for a dedicated Public Transport standing committee that includes the DCC and QLDC, to drive the best possible governance for both Public and Active transport.
Communities know how they need to approach the issues they face. We do best when we talk to each other. Iwi agenda must also be included. We need more focus on ground up partnering rather than top down.
I have a good base knowledge through my work as a lecturer in sustainable practice, I have a wealth of local government experience, I am a strong communicator and listen well and would very much like to continue this work and so respectfully ask for your vote.
Good luck with your voting. The best thing you can do is make sure you remember to do it. Voting closes 12 noon sharp on October 8. See you on the other side.