OPINION: Little over one month into the role of mayor of Queenstown Lakes District Council, I’m happy to share a few observations.
I hold a strong view that this council will not be remembered simply for its “business as usual” undertakings.
Ratepayers rightly expect that the roads will be useable, clean water will come out of the tap, and things will go away with a flush.
My goal is the council will be remembered under my leadership for addressing the very big issues which face our district at the present time, such as: traffic and transport; the introduction of a visitor levy; the cost of housing; lake water quality; and the adoption of a very clear vision for the future.
In this regard, I am fortunate to be leading a council united in its desire to deliver these goals.
Councillors include an excellent mix of experience, fresh thinking, diverse background, age and interests which I am sure will deliver balanced outcomes.
The cost of housing for ordinary families in our district (but particularly the Wakatipu) is a major issue for us.
Many businesses report difficulty in finding good staff simply because families cannot afford to buy or rent a house here.
On the positive side, I’ve had some excellent engagement with central government on several issues so far – particularly housing, traffic and transport.
It’s indeed pleasing to see construction of the eastern access road underway and I fully expect to make progress on a number of traffic-related issues – particularly around Frankton – within the next 12 months.
Chief executive Mike Theelen and I have also had some worthwhile engagement with Otago Regional Council on water quality issues and our public transport system, which will be a focus for both councils in the short term.
Many of my fellow mayors say to me that they are envious of our district’s growth rate.
That is borne out by some interesting numbers.
In the last 12 months, the population of the district grew by 7.1 per cent against the national average of 2.1 per cent. And if you wondered why our roads are busier, the traffic count in Frankton grew by an incredible 10 per cent in each of the last two years.
Growth, however, is one thing; coping with it is another.
There is a natural barrier coming for the current growth spurt – quite simply, for some parts of the year it is now challenging to get visitor accommodation.
I am determined, however, that in the future QLDC will work hard to ensure that infrastructure is built in time to avoid the congestion issues now facing us – such as the traffic issues at Frankton.
Throughout my election campaign I steadfastly maintained that being mayor is not a full-time job – it is a governance role providing guidance, strategy, vision and encouragement to council staff to enable them to discharge the requirements of running New Zealand’s fastest-growing district.
I’m very satisfied that my stance in that regard is appropriate and correct.
Finally, I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying the mayoral role and I am delighted with the enthusiasm to get on with doing a good job demonstrated by the people I am working with both among the councillors and the staff within the council.
Jim Boult is the Queenstown Lakes mayor