My favourite council story is about Christmas cards.
As I remember it, it was the late ’90s and Queenstown council’s Gorge Road meeting room was hotter than a Pig & Whistle bikini and boardie competition.
As the sweat slowly dribbled down my back an amazing scene unfolded.
It wasn’t quite a nativity play, I can tell you.
Councillors started talking about the council Christmas card. And kept talking. And kept on bloody-well talking.
There are too many years in between to remember the ins and outs of the arguments.
But you can bet the heated debate showed the worst side of local politics - banal speeches, vested interests and petty bickering.
I reckon that discussion went on for damned near an hour.
Think about what a council does and the gamut of decisions it makes in a year.
For any council to spend that long - on the ratepayers’ purse - talking about a Christmas card shows how small-time and ineffective local politics can be.
Whenever conversation tends towards useless councils or time-wasting elected reps I always offer the Christmas card story. Now I’ve got a new one.
At last month’s full council meeting our local body had the difficult job of naming a road. There were seven options to rename the eastern access road and the council couldn’t make a decision.
Politics was at play - the council’s old nemesis, the developer Remarkables Park, put forward particular names.
But grinding to a halt on such a simple thing shows a council in disarray. The more worrying thing is they were debating it at all.
Earlier this century, it was up to council committees to name roads. Remember council committees?
In 2003 the regulatory committee decided a moniker for a road off Frankton-Ladies Mile Highway.
Stalker Rd – the road heading to the Shotover Country subdivision - is named after the family that developed the land.
The decision to apply that label was so blissfully simple (well, from the mention in a 2005 agenda anyway) it can easily be reprinted in full: “On the motion of Councillor Clarke and Wanaka Community Board Member Barrow it was resolved that approval be granted pursuant to Section 319A of the Local Government Act 1974 for the naming of Stalker Rd, as shown on the attached plan.”
The daily paper reporters attending the meeting didn’t think it worth mentioning, it seems.
So why is it that road names are being discussed at the “top table” at all?
Isn’t there a bureaucrat that can do that job? Can’t they read a policy?
If the main thoroughfare to Shotover Country can be called Stalker Rd then the eastern access road can be called Porter Drive or Remarkables Park Avenue.
A quick check of the Frankton map throws up Grant Rd, Jock Boyd Place, Glenda Dr, Margaret Pl and Brookes Rd - all named after people.
Love them or hate them, Remarkables Park have played a huge part in the development of Frankton in particular and Queenstown in general. Why not endorse one of their preferred names?
The councillors’ squabbling and indecision underlines they have lost the plot.
What they should be doing is tackling the big questions about where this town wants to be in a few decades. If they can trip up over a road name what hope do we have?