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Wind down report – councillor update #2

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Before things wind down (or up) for Christmas, and in the spirit of openness and transparency, I’ve detailed below my activities over the past month or so. It’s a broad outline of some of the issues that we are facing and I’m working with. I’ve written it chronologically but you may want to scroll through to find the subjects you’re specifically interested in. You’ll find info and links to meeting agenda, news stories, Council Meetings, the Skelton Report on Deemed Permits, Friends of Lake Hayes concerns, Bullock Creek concerns, Lake Dunstan concerns, transport conversations in Queenstown and Alexandra ranging from ferries to stock effluent discharge, discussions about bores and septic tanks in small communities… and more. There’s a good action list in here, but feel free to add to it by contacting me directly.

Early November – water and buses

  1. Informal meeting in Clyde to discuss environmental concerns about water. These range from worries about Queenstown spilling sewage that flows their way, to rural activities that have resulted in degradation of some swimming areas. It’s about quality and quantity.

  2. Fernhill resident contacted me about the noise of buses reverse alarms as buses turn around in Fernhill. People living in audible range of that irritating beep, beep, beep are fed up with two years of interuptions to activity and sleep every 20 minutes. I am hoping that is now sorted out with a simple, drive –around-the-block fix.

12/13 November – Council meeting

  1. Council meeting, strategy workshop and Port Otago site visit. The strategy workshop gave us the opportunity to discuss the future direction of ORC.

14 November – Transport

  1. Shaping Future Dunedin Transport meeting. This was a planning and visioning meeting. As chair of the Regional Transport Committee, this was my first opportunity to understand the issues and aspirations of transport in Dunedin, and yes, there are many of both.

21 November – Wānaka

  1. Wānaka Community Board meeting. I was interested in this because the Wānaka Masterplan was presented and key to that plan is the Integrated Transport Business Case. This was noted and the business case was endorsed for progession to the next stage.

  2. Friends of Bullock Creek took time out of their day to guide me along the Bullock Creek walkway and to look at the issues created by the Alpha Series and Studholme subdivision. Bullock Creek is being swamped by consented stormwater which is threatening vulnerable young fish and other biodiversity that has been painstakingly encouraged through community effort. Basically the stormwater system that the developer was allowed to install doesn’t work as expected, and the result is the creek, which is also home to a Fish & Game hatchery, is being used for stormwater discharge – apparently all consented by QLDC. This has and continues to cause environmental damage in heavy rain. Plus the actual system at the base of the subdivision is a complete mess with pumps and hoses, natural and unnatural hazards.

Pump in wet dry pond wide shot

Pic by Andrew Waterworth

  1. The Friends think that ORC should have been involved in this subdivision, highlighting concern for, and defence of, the creek at the consenting stage. To me, the ORC needs to ensure that the creek is protected from subdivision and other impacts. My job is to figure out how to make this happen.

26 / 27 November – Eco Fund and Emergency Meeting

  1. Back in Dunedin for council meetings the first was the Ecofund There were a huge number of wonderful projects, many doing ORC’s work in protecting the natural environment. It was a joy to work through the applications and make sure the best of them are able to continue their work or develop their projects. It was interesting to see how knowledgeable staff were able to work through the proposals and illustrate how some showed longevity while others looked as though they couldn’t last the distance. I think the key for people planning to apply to this fund (two rounds a year, $125k in each round) is to talk to those staff members to shape ideas into a robust project that has a strong chance of success. I’d love to see much more money in this fund and much more support for the people doing the work (including financial).

  2. A more sobering task. An Emergency Council meeting where we considered the failure of ORC’s framework for converting deemed permits to resource consents. Peter Skelton presented his report and recommendations and took questions from councillors. The task ahead is massive. The entire planning framework at ORC has been deemed not-fit-for-purpose from the Regional Policy Statement down. There is a big job ahead. Apart from the concerns around water – quality and quantity – I also have concerns about how to keep the regional transport committee, of which i’m chair, high on the agenda. However, it’s very good that water, is being valued and that we may finally actually address what hasn’t been addressed over the past 30 years. A quick way to get your head around this is to read the Minister’s letter to the ORC. The council has accepted the recommendations, decided a way forward and is getting on with resolving this untenable situation. At that link you’ll also find answers to questions such as – what about plan change 6AA and the omnibus plan change, and what about the Manuherekia, Arrow and Cardrona catchments.

28 November – Transport Dunedin

  1. Mayoral transport informal meeting. Chair Marian Hobbs and I were invited to meet with Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins and Councillor Jim O’Malley to discuss public transport. They, like Queenstown Lakes District Council are disappointed at the lack of responsiveness and agility of Otago Regional Council Transport Planning. As in Queenstown, Dunedin feels helpless to improve its public transport and find it difficult that they have no oversight or understanding of the opportunities and limitations built into the bus delivery contract.

29 November – Lake Hayes

  1. Received a wonderful education on freshwater lakes from Dr Marc Shallenburg who kindly gave me a lift from Dunedin to Queenstown as we both headed to a Friends of Lake Hayes meeting. (I generally use the bus, but sometimes get rides with people as I travel between Queenstown and Dunedin).

  2. Friends of Lake Hayes walk around and meeting with Councillor Michael Laws, Marc Shallenburg and members of the friends. The Lake is badly affected by algae, giving it a reddish brown tinge. We also checked out an offending culvert – it was built too small when the road was realigned some years ago and prevents the lake from draining properly which leads to other problems. The culvert is a contributor to some Lake Hayes issues, but not a cause. However, it needs fixing and may be key to resolving issues of flooding and any flushing. Development in the catchment and issues of phosphates and nitrates are the real causes which need serious attention. (See earlier blog). FOLH want a simple water plan written and instigated.

2 December – Transport Queenstown

  1. Queenstown Transport Governance Group This group is a collaboration between NZTA, ORC, QLDC and Queenstown Airport Corporation, Business cases are ready for implementation and Queenstown is frustrated at delays in implementation. As in Dunedin there is low confidence in ORC ability to respond to public transport needs. Queenstown is particularly worried about this because efficient public transport delivering 40% modeshift by 2028 underpins its business cases. This is an ambitious plan and ORC needs to show it can play its part in delivery.

6 December – Communication

  1. A meeting of the ORC Communications Working Group. This is an intiative from Councillor Michael Laws in response to communication issues. The idea is to vastly improve engagement between ORC and the communities it serves.

10 December – Transport Queenstown

  1. Councillor Kate Wilson (deputy chair Regional Transport Committee) and I did a wee bit of a road trip to get a better understanding of the issues and aspirations around transport and, as it happened, also small community sewage issues. First up was a meeting in Queenstown with QLDC staff to discuss our combined ability to drive mode shift (that is, alternative ways to travel – bus, bike, feet, maybe rapid transit of some sort). We later met the ferry operator to talk about how we might keep that service going. Interestingly, the cost of congestion is around $30m a year – that’s before we consider environmental costs which currently aren’t counted. Imagine if that $30m was able to be accessed to spend on public transport?

  2. It’s clear from those discussions that contracts secured on lowest price will not provide the level of service Queenstown needs. This is all a work in progress and I’ll report back as progress is made.

10 December – Sewage Small Communities

  1. Met with QLDC councillors from Glenorchy and Kingston, plus infrastructure, to discuss issues around septic systems, and in the case of Kingston, drinking water. Septic systems and drinking water bores are not well separated in Kingston. Hopefully this will be fixed by a new bore, but it is currently not a good situation. There are also problems around people putting off proper maintenance because they’re waiting for reticulation. This is a major issue with our system of infrastructural development – communities cannot afford the infrastructure until there is enough development to pay for it meaning they can wait years while a development goes through processes, with a highly uncertain outcome. Resisting infrastructural development can also can be used as a tool to put off necessary reticulation as a way of stalling growth (as soon as you reticulate, you no longer need a large section as a disposal field, so it can be subdivided). All in all it doesn’t add up to good landuse or infrastructural planning. A systemic issue, again a work in progess.

10 December – Transport, Sewage, Central Otago

  1. Met with the Central Otago District Council representative on the Regional Transport Committee. The issues and concerns are quite different there. A primary concern is the Stock Effluent Disposal areas. Currently the costs of these are on the CODC ratepayer – should they not be on the transport operator?

  2. Airports are big business and Queenstown is seen here as one of the fastest growing destinations in the world. Central Otago is affected by this growth and needs its concerns considered.

  3. There is potential for reconsidering rail for freight. Currently the land transport plan doesn’t consider rail, but it needs to. An inland port in Balclutha is worth investigation. This council also feels that dedicated freight routes need separating from tourism and bike routes. There is also concern about the resilience of road bridges. Big floods mean broken tress (particularly willows) can seriously damage or destroy infrastructure. Roxburgh is particularly at risk. Preemptive work on rivers to maintain clear water on the upside of bridges is key work to be done.

  4. There is potential for reconsidering rail for freight. Currently the land transport plan doesn’t consider rail, but it needs to. An inland port in Balclutha is worth investigation. This council also feels that dedicated freight routes need separating from tourism and bike routes. There is also concern about the resilience of road bridges. Big floods mean broken tress (particularly willows) can seriously damage or destroy infrastructure. Roxburgh is particularly at risk. Preemptive work on rivers to maintain clear water on the upside of bridges is key work to be done.

This busy day finished with me riding the train from Pukerangi to Dunedin through the Taiere Gorge. An absolutely marvellous trip. If you haven’t done it, time to board. Toot toot!

11 December – Council Meeting

  1. A workshop around the annual plan and how we will approach it, followed by a Council meeting – all in Dunedin. At the meeting we approved meeting structures, terms of references and delegations, approved the Eco-fund recipients and approved the establishment of the Communications Working Party.

16 December – Lake Dunstan

  1. Guardians of Lake Dunstan Councillor Gary Kelliher and I attended. The purpose of the meeting was to understand the roles and responsibilities of the agencies involved in the management of the Lake – CODC, LINZ, ORC and Contact Energy were all represented. The Guardians were looking for opportunities to create an integrated approach to lake management – they rightly want all the agencies to work together to improve both the health of Lake Dunstan and its recreational potential.

  2. The Guardians have identified that the Lake is an underutilised, under-recognised asset that has been neglected over the years. They’re looking for funding to research the scope of the opportunity. There has been no research since 1987 when the Dam was completed. The Guardians are also keen to engage with ORC scientists for a conversation around water quality. Do they require a monitoring buoy? What knowledge could be gathered that would be useful? What baseline metrics do we have now? What do we need and what would ‘good’ look like?

  3. Gary and I committed to finding some information and arrange a further conversation.

This has been a big download. Congratulations if you’ve made it to the end. I hope it’s been useful for you. If you would like to talk to me at all about what’s going on in your area of the community, connect with me on facebook, twitter, or by phone – 021 296 4255 or email. In the meantime, I’m off for a lie down til about January 6. Meri Kirihimete to you – see you on the other side.

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