Adapting to meet community need
A personal highlight of our public consultation on the 2017-18
Annual Plan was the large volume of submissions we received, but also the energy and passion people applied to preparing them, and in some cases, speaking to them.
Attracting 825 submissions (a record number for any consultation the council has led) demonstrated to me how heavily invested our community is in the work ORC already does across the region, and the expectations people have of us to deliver on our promises to do even more.
I was impressed by how many people responded positively to our proposal to apply a uniform targeted rate of $25.89 to build on the work Emergency
Management Otago has started to boost our region’s capability to respond to a natural disaster.
Emergency preparedness starts with you at home, but having a network of highly skilled and trained professionals on standby to support you when it counts, is something we are committed to providing.
This is important for a major tourist destination like Queenstown, which because of its landlocked geography would potentially be cut off should an earthquake centred on the Alpine Fault occur, as predicted during the next 50 years.
Instead of district and city councils each employing their own emergency management officers, these staff are now employed by ORC but continue to be based in the districts. In their respective communities, they will facilitate emergency response plans which will be owned and developed by the community to build resilience and preparedness.
Another feature of the Annual Plan is the confirmation of funding for a new subsidised public bus service in the Wakatipu that will provide cheap and convenient transport options for residents and visitors.
ORC’s contribution boosts funding confirmed by QLDC and the NZ Transport Agency, with a combined budget of $4.7 million. More frequent services will link communities across the Wakatipu, with extended hours and a trial of $2 fares.
We have also responded to community requests for a permanent and full-time staff presence in the Queenstown area. We are looking for premises to reopen an office there, supplementing staff already based permanently in Alexandra, Cromwell and Wanaka.
My fellow councillors and I heard loud and clear the community’s preferences expressed through the Annual Plan consultation process, and the ‘‘turning tide’’ of acceptance that our council has to be more active in water management.
I believe our Annual Plan underlines that we are adapting to the community’s needs. We are not here to please everybody but overall we have moved a significant distance.
*Stephen Woodhead is chair of the Otago Regional Council