How green is your councillor?


There’ll be extra squawking at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park this coming Tuesday, from 5.30pm, as local council election candidates are grilled over their views on conservation, sustainability and the environment.

The meeting’s the launch of a lecture series called ‘Talks on the Wild Side’ being organised by Whakatipu Wildlife Trust (WWT) – an umbrella organisation for predator-free groups – and the park.

“You never get the candidates to talk about just one issue,” WWT executive officer Leslie Van Gelder says, “and we think conservation and the environment is a real critical issue.

“Given the climate change conversations out there, now’s the right time for the community to come together, hear what they all have to say and have a chance to ask some curly and straight-up questions about what our elected officials and candidates envision for the district’s future.”

Van Gelder, who’ll chair Tuesday’s meeting, says she’ll take written questions, only, from the audience.

She’ll direct the first one at the mayor and sitting councillors – asking what they’ve done about these issues over the past three years.

The event will take place in the park’s amphitheatre, where its wildlife shows are conducted, or inside, if it rains.

Van Gelder suggests people dress up warmly or bring a blanket.

Entry’s by $5 koha, which will go towards the park’s breeding programme for the endangered native bird, the whio.

Like Van Gelder, Kiwi Birdlife Park manager Paul Kavanagh says the event’s also a good chance for the public to appreciate what the park does for conservation.

He says they run a really successful whio breeding programme – last year, 15 were released to the wild, and this season’s underway already.

He notes the park also has a trapping programme which, along with extensive tree planting, is encouraging more native birdlife.

He doesn’t mind if Tuesday’s meeting gets a bit controversial – “with most environmental and conservation issues, controversy means people are passionate”.