My first weeks on the Otago Regional Council (ORC) have been an intense learning curve. As the first Queenstown based councillor on the council, there’s a backlog of Queenstown issues that have landed in my inbox. I’m working through them and will use this blog to keep you updated on progress on those issues and also generally on what’s happening at the council.
Committee structures, who’s on what and iwi representation were on the agenda at Wednesday’s (November 13) full Council meeting.
As a result, I’m the newly minted chair of the Regional Transport Committee with Councillor Kate Wilson as deputy. This committee is responsible for preparing and monitoring the progress of the Regional Land Transport plan. Members of the committee include the New Zealand Transport Agency, Dunedin City Council, Clutha District Council, Central Otago District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and Waitaki District Council. This committee meets with its Southland counterpart as a combined committee so that the wider regional transport network can be considered in totality. I also have related portfolios including Urban Development/Transport, Climate Change/Coast/Air Quality, the Connecting Dunedin and the Queenstown Transport Governance Group. Key to this role for me is a good understanding of the National Policy Statement: Transport, along with the issues and aspirations of each community within the region.
So, a lot of my focused work will be around transport – particularly public and active transport – and working to resolve the issues that both Dunedin and Queenstown have with their public transport systems. I’ll also be working on long term transport planning for the region and contributing at sessions such as Thursday’s (14 November) Shaping Dunedin’s Future and Queenstown Lakes Spatial Planning meetings. Transport is of course integrally related to land use, climate change and carbon emission issues so I’ll be working in these areas as well.
My number one priority (because I think it’s how we will begin to solve the issues we face), is to build community engagement with ORC. That means knowing who’s doing what and figuring out how ORC can support initiatives that align with council purpose – that is, managing Otago’s land, air and water resources on behalf of the community.
From this perspective, I want to be engaged with all environmental groups, ranging from catchment management through to community regenerative groups. So, please do get in touch with me if you think I can help.
Currently I am specifically working on:
- Problems with the bus turning around at Fernhill. Residents near the bus turn around are being driven nuts by the reversing beeps that happen every 20 minutes from 6am ish to sometime after 11. Seems like there should be a quick and easy fix, but they’ve been putting up with this since the start of the bus service. Grrr, working on it.
- Getting to the bottom of why we can’t seem to get the Lake Hayes Estate direct bus service underway. This has been approved for some time. When I enquired, I was told Ritchies can’t provide the bus drivers. I was then told (by someone else) that they could. Then I read this in Thursday’s Mountain Scene which says it’s about the wages Ritchies are prepared to pay. Interested in the comments made in the article around immigration – in my mind, using visas as a way of cheapening labour costs is a race for the bottom.
- Connecting Dunedin governance meeting on Tues 26th. Am getting my head around Dunedin transport network and its issues. There seems to be a lot of desire for a similar-to-Queenstown’s $2 fare. Apparently the average cost of a trip in the city is about $2.50, but many fares are much higher. In my mind, the simplicity of the $2 fare and the way it shares the cost of transport evenly across users, makes it well worth pursuing. Whether there are any budgeting issues will depend on how much patronage goes up as a result. Will hear the arguments next week. There’s also a lot of planning going on in Dunedin about the network itself and how it can be improved to enable a more liveable, easily traversable city.
- Queenstown Ferry, a private operator (Go Orange) currently provides this service at a loss. It expects a similar subsidy to the buses but ORC has not yet come to the party. The service will stop in February if the situation can’t be rectified.
- The culvert under SH6 needs to be bigger. This will allow the lake to drain more efficiently.
- There are options to help this lake heal itself. Implementation is key!
This one is fun. I am on the committee that gets to consider the community benefit of projects. The Eco fund is $250k granted in two funding rounds a year. In the next round, we will have $125k to allocate towards work that community groups are undertaking. I am very interested in how much this fund is oversubscribed – ie, how much more money is asked for (to support eligible projects) than we have to give. Standby…