Disgraced local MP Todd Barclay is promising to lobby hard for Queenstown in his last two months in Parliament.
Three weeks ago, the one-term government MP announced he was standing down at the election after a secret taping scandal involving a former staff member, which even embarrassed Prime Minister Bill English, blew up.
Barclay’s since pulled the plug on public appearances.
Police have now also reopened their investigation into his alleged recordings, after dropping it when he refused to be interviewed.
Contacted this week, Barclay said he was “very keen” to talk, and invited “specific questions”.
Mountain Scene sent 12 questions – including how he filled in the past three weeks, whether he’s leaving with regrets, whether he’ll give a statement to police and what he plans post-election. Barclay, however, ignored those queries, addressing only his work on local issues in a lengthy emailed reply.
He says that till the election he’s “totally focused on, and passionate about, remaining actively engaged in issues, looking out for the people of Clutha-Southland’s interests and advocating on their behalf”.
He reveals he’s doubled the hours his Queenstown office is staffed – he says it actioned 100 cases in 2015, 255 last year and 205 so far this year.
In the wake of the government announcing funding for three local housing infrastructure projects this week, he claims he “tirelessly” advocated for them.
He notes that the 2017 budget increased the accommodation supplement for residents in Queenstown Central, Arrowtown and Queenstown suburbs Fernhill and Sunshine Bay, rezoning them from Area 2 to Area 1.
“This is something I’ve been pushing for three years, so I’m pleased we’ve got that over the line.”
He’s not happy, however, that other local areas like Lake Hayes Estate, Shotover Country and Jack’s Point are all still zoned Area 4 “and receive a greatly reduced supplement”.
He says he’s following that up with Finance Minister Steven Joyce and officials.
Barclay reiterates that for 18 months he’s been in “close discussions” with Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith about expediting the sale of the Wakatipu High School site, being vacated next year, “to fast-track a worker accommodation project”.
An irony is that one of Barclay’s pet local projects came to fruition about the same time his career-ending scandal erupted.
That’s the new ‘no parking’ rule along State Highway 6 between the airport and BP roundabouts.
He’d petitioned NZ Transport Agency for both this and the four-laning of SH6 at Frankton, which begins next year.
Barclay pays special credit to Transport Minister Simon Bridges for the latter – “without his involvement we’d still be waiting up to 10 years”.
He admits his proposal for a visitor levy in high-growth tourism areas like Queenstown “has been ruled out for the time being”, but says he’s working hard to pursue other options for infrastructure investment.