Queenstown locals to join council think-tanks’

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New ‘think tanks’ involving Wakatipu communities in council planning got the nod from Queenstown Lakes District Council yesterday. 

The “baby” of Mayor Vanessa van Uden, the new Shaping our Future workstreams – on events and economic futures – are about getting the community involved in future council decisions. 

“The purpose of this process has been to actually enable council and other parent organisations to engage our community in different ways than we have in the past,” Van Uden says. 

Thirty people were “brought together from all walks of life” in December and after a further workshop in February, a steering group was formed. 

Chaired by van Uden, the steering group comprises Ngai Tahu Tourism boss David Kennedy, Wanaka Wastebusters’ Sue Coutts, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chairman Alastair Porter, farmer John Aspinall and QLDC chief executive Debra Lawson. 

Van Uden emphasised “this is about council being a partner in the process…not the driver and controller. And that in itself is the strength of the process”. 

The steering group will run the project, managed by the Centre for Sustainable Practice – both are volunteering their time. 

The Shaping our Future forums will initially happen three times in six months, with the first meeting on economic futures will be held in Upper Clutha on May 10. 

But councillor Lyal Cocks questioned how the forums, pegged “to be the saviour” and prevent appeals, “are actually going to make much of a difference”. 

Van Uden claims the workstream “isn’t just a talk fest – there are some outcomes resulting from it”. 

The steering group, which has been holding open-to the-public meetings every fortnight since February, is expected to bring recommendations to council in 2012 for the 10-year plan. 

About $25,000 has been allocated to fund the steering group, with a further $26,400 earmarked in the 2011-2012 annual plan to continue the process. 

“The outcome of the forums is for the community to tell us what they want the council’s role to be,” van Uden says. 

Lawson: “We’ve got some consultation processes in place…but this gives us another tool and if it means that people are encouraged to come out and tell us what they are thinking, then it’s all good. 

“I do think it’s a good step forward and personally I’m excited about it.”