Careless campers country-wide problem

January 26, 2018

Queenstown Lakes is banning freedom campers from two areas after continuing problems with rubbish and human waste left behind.

Announcing the measures yesterday, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said his council would take a harder line against illegal freedom camping in areas such as Wanaka’s lakefront.

The measures, which will be put into place as soon as practicable, were a response to significant growth in freedom camping in the district this summer, Mr Boult said.

Enforcement alone was not enough, and the council had resolved to “take a harder stand”.

“These pressure points are seeing overcrowding, risks to public health due to human waste, and potential damage to our environment with people bathing and washing dishes or clothes in the lakes or rivers.”

Parts of the district were also being used like a “giant toilet”. . .

The council would also lobby the Government to put much more funding into building public toilet facilities, and providing more remote freedom camping sites throughout the district.

Too few public facilities is a major contributor to the problem and small councils with lots of tourists don’t have the rating base to fund loos in all the places where they’re needed.

The previous government introduced a fund councils could apply to for tourist infrastructure, much more is needed.

He would also be talking to ministers about reviewing the low hurdle required for meeting “self-contained” criteria for toilets in vehicles. . .

The only acceptable criteria for a ‘self-contained” toilet is those built-in ones in camper vans.

Councils can fine people camping where they shouldn’t be, but only about 20% of fines issued to freedom campers in the Waitaki District have been paid.

Fines totalling $17,000 were issued to freedom campers across the district. Of the infringement notices issued, each for $200, 15 ($3000) had been paid while 58 ($11,600) were outstanding.

The remaining 12, worth $2400, had been withdrawn…

The solution to this would be to make vehicle owners responsible for any fines. That way rental companies would have to pay and then get the money from the people hiring from them which is, I think, what happens with parking fines.

Another contributor to problems caused by careless campers is different rules from different councils in different areas.

Careless campers are a country-wide problem that needs a country-wide solution.

That will include more public facilities, clearer rules, and better education on what is and isn’t acceptable.

Defecation in public is the norm in some countries, visitors must be left with no doubt that they can’t pooh in public places here.


Why and where’s Waitaki grown?

October 8, 2013

Population projections for the Waitaki District have been gloomy for years.

The trend has been for fewer people and the average age of those left getting higher.

But yesterday’s announcement by Statistics New Zealand of electorate populations from this year’s census shows that the Waitaki Electorate’s population has increased from 60,135 to 64, 962.

The electorate includes not just the Waitaki District but most of Central Otago, all of Waimate and Mackenzie Districts, part of Queenstown Lakes and part of Timaru City.

QLDC was expected to increase in population because of Queenstown’s growth but that town is in neighbouring Clutha Southland electorate, not Waitaki.

Wanaka, which is in Waitaki, has grown but more than 3,000 extra people would almost have doubled its population which is unlikely.

There’s been a mini boom in grape growing in Central which will have brought more people into the area but again I’d be surprised if it’s thousands.

Both Waimate and Waitaki Districts have had a big increase in dairy farming which increases employment opportunities on and off farm.

Could it be that anecdotal evidence of a population increase, and a lowering of the average age, because of dairying is reflected in official statistics?

The answer to why Waitaki has grown and where will come when more census data is released.


Growing pains partially responsible for 7.7% rates rise

July 1, 2010

The 7.7% rates rise for Queenstown Lakes is well above the rate of inflation which councils ought to be aiming for when setting their budgets.

This district is one of the fastest growing in the country which is good. But the rapid growth from a realtively small base does provide challenges for the council and part of the rates rise could be attributed to growing pains.

Developers are levied for infrastructure but some of the costs of growth have to be spread across the whole rating base.


We deserve pay rise

February 9, 2009

Oh dear, if there’s a phrase that politicians should never utter it’s “we deserve a pay rise” and to be fair, the mayors interviewed by the Southland Times  didn’t put it in exactly those words.

Queenstown-Lakes mayor Clive Geddes said:

“My own view, not speaking for myself but speaking for the councils and community chairs in this district, is that their remuneration is significantly below the effort and contribution they make.”

Central Otago mayor Malcolm Macpherson said:

. . .  in my view people who do the sort of work that rural authority mayors do are pretty much underpaid as it is.

And Southland District mayor Frana Cardno said:

. . . Our councillors earn a pathetic amount that wouldn’t even cover the costs of them leaving their work for the day . . .

I suspect they all have a point, that council pay is less than fair compensation for the time and effort good councillors put into their work.

But ratepayers hearing their elected representatives saying they deserve a pay rise are unlikely to be swayed by this when facing yet another increase in rates which is well above the rate of inflation.

It doesn’t matter that concillors’ pay is a tiny part of the total rates bill and their pay is set by the Remuneration Authority over which they have no control. Ratepayers almost certainly think their case for lower rates is stronger than the coucillors’ one for higher pay and are likely to respond to mayors saying they deserve a pay rise by offering them a Tui.

However, the debate raises two bigger issues – the growing rates burden and the method for setting the politicians’ pay.

Kiwiblog  thinks the Remuneration Authority should set MPs’ salaries for a whole three year term. I agree and would like the same system used for local body politicians.


Queenstown Lakes most affluent

December 4, 2008

 

If affluence counts then Queenstown Lakes is the jewel in New Zealand’s crown.

This was the finding of Stephen Hart in a study commissioned by the ASB.

We looked at the average sale prices of residential homes in over 70 territorial authorities from all over New Zealand.  We then took the top 20 highest priced places and dug beneath the surface to see how they stacked up in the affluence stakes.

We didn’t just consider house prices; we also examined:

* Households earning more than $100,000 a year.

* Homes least likely to be in deprived areas.

* Percentage of residents who have a degree.

* Lowest unemployment rates.

* Residents who are Chief Executives, General Managers or Legislators.

Points were awarded based on performance across each of these criteria, then added up to create a league table of New Zealand’s Most Affluent Places.

And the winner was Queenstown Lakes. 

That’s not just the town of Queenstown, it’s the whole district which includes Arrowtown, Wanaka and Hawea and all the land in between including farms, ski fields and wineries.

Queenstown Lakes scored well against all of the set criteria, especially in terms of jobs; its unemployment rate of 1.7% was lower than any of the other contenders.

All places have some degree of socioeconomic deprivation, it’s measured in deciles with 1 being the least deprived and 10 being the most deprived.  On average 30% of New Zealanders live in deciles 1 to 3.  Not so in Queenstown where more than two-thirds of residents live in the top three deciles.

Back on the jobs front; Queenstowners are a well qualified bunch with 19% possessing a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the fourth highest in the country.  Queenstown also came fourth in terms of its percentage of population who are in the top occupation category of Chief Executive, General Managers and Legislators, only surpassed by Rodney District, Auckland and North Shore Cities.

It’s hard to know which is the cause and which is the effect but higher property prices can only be afforded by people on higher incomes and people on higher incomes can afford higher prices.

The top 20 most affluent places were: 

1

Queenstown Lakes District

2

North Shore City

3=

Wellington City

3=

Auckland City

5

Rodney District

6

Selwyn District

7

Franklin District

8

Porirua District

9

Manuaku District

10

Tauranga District

11

Tasman District

12

Central Otago District

13

Waitakere City

14

Kapiti Coast District

15

Thames Coromandel District

16

South Wairarapa District

17

Lower Hutt City

18

Taupo City

19

Christchurch City

20

Nelson City


400 people 6 politicians

October 29, 2008

I started my journalism career in an election year – 1981 when politicians still faced the public at meetings and the public still turned up in good numbers – several hundred people – to hear them.

After attending two meet the candidates forums in the past fortnight with fewer than 25 people in each audience I’d begun to wonder if this form of democratic interaction was dying.

However, a report on a meeting  in Queenstown gives me hope.

The ODT reports that 400 people turned out to hear six politicians: National deputy leader Bill English, his Labour counterpart Michael Cullen, Progressive MP Jim Anderton, Act candidate Roger Douglas, Greens co-leader Russel Norman and NZ First leader Winston Peters.

All parliamentary parties had been invited to send a representative and while I understand that wee parties’ MPs can’t be everywhere, it’s a poor reflection on both United Future and the Maori Party that they couldn’t find a candidate to represent them at the forum.

The ODt says that Queenstown Lakes Mayor Clive Geddis received sustained applause from the audience when he told the politicians:

“. . . if you can run the economy of New Zealand for the next decade as these people out here have run the economy of the Lakes District for the past decade, the GDP will be 30% greater . . . than it is today.

“Close to 400 people here this evening have paid to come and hear politicians. It’s a sobering thought and what is behind that is a genuine interest.”

Mr Geddes said those who had turned out felt they had ownership of their community, had a say in the way it was managed and felt they were in charge of their own economy.

“People who are prepared to front on a cold, rainy night, pay 30 bucks to hear you . . . but more importantly that you take away from them the message that this town has got something you can learn from them.”

The paper also noted the best one-liners:

Bill English on the anti-smacking legislation: It’s going to be the nanny state on P.

Russel Norman reacting after being criticised for being an Australian representing a New Zealand party in an election: Hey, I’m a citizen, mate. There are a lot of migrants in this country. Get used to it.

Michael Cullen after being asked about the proposed location of the new Frankton school: I don’t have a briefing on that, I assume they’re planning for future growth.

MC Jim Hopkins reacting to Dr Cullen’s comment: Hold the press . . . a politician has just admitted he doesn’t know something.

Winston Peters after being asked to confirm a rumour a deal had been done between New Zealand First and Labour that if NZ First did not get in, Mr Peters would be appointed Right Honourable Consul of Monaco: You came all the way tonight and that’s your best shot? Sit down and be a good lad.

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it, but if that’s the best Peters can do the standard of his repartee is down with his standard of accountability.


Rolls down, schools to close?

October 5, 2008

The wholesale closure of rural and provincial schools by then Education Minister Trevor Mallard was a major contributer to the Labour losing so much support in the provinces at the 2005 election.

By then the government had put a moratorium on school closures, but it was too late. Children were having to travel much further to school, classrooms were overcrowded, communities which lost schools also lost their focus and those affected made their feelings clear at the ballot box.

Because of that the ODT headline Southern school rolls to plummet  will have been greeted with no enthusiasm at all by the government.

The story which follows shows Ministry of Education roll projections based on birth numbers from Statistics New Zealand:

. . . the number of 3 to 4 year-olds will decline in the Waitaki (-0.4%), Dunedin (-2%), Southland (-2.7%), Clutha (-5%) and Gore (-8.8%) territorial authorities between June this year and 2011 . . . 

The drops contrast with a predicted nationwide rise of 9.4% in the number of pre-schoolers.

A decline in pupil numbers of up to 8.8% will impact on schools. However, this time the suggestion that some might have to close isn’t coming from politicians or bureaucrats:

New Zealand Principals Federation president and Balclutha School principal Paddy Ford said Otago and Southland schools needed to take heed of the figures.

“They might need to look at amalgamation. It doesn’t go down well with schools to say this, but we do have to look at ways of providing the best education we can deliver.”

Talk of school closures usually produces more heat than light and it is often those who no longer have pre-school or school age children who protest most strongly. Those whose offspring are at or nearly at school tend to look at what’s best for the children and sometimes that means school closures and amalgamations.

Schools can reach a tipping point because when the roll drops so does the number of teachers. Parents then decide their chidlren are better off at a bigger school even if it means longer on a bus to get there and the roll drops further until the school is no longer viable.

The concern in rural areas though is that roll projections based on birth numbers don’t necessarily reflect the reality, especially if there is a lot of dairying which has a big change in staff at the end of one season and start of another.

Some schools have more than a 30% change in their rolls over Gpysy weekend at the end of May and a few families moving in or out of a school catchment can have a big impact on pupil numbers.

While schools can provide a focus for a community that’s not a reason to keep a school open if a roll decline means its no longer meeting the educational needs of its pupils. The difficulty is that the Ministry has to work on historical figures and projections which don’t always paint the whole picture.

However, if the projections are accurate, Paddy Ford says declining rolls wouldn’t be all bad news because there is a shortage of teachers.

And while the projections for some southern districts are for falling rolls, huge increases are forecast for the Queenstown Lakes (29.7%), Central Otago (14.2%) and Invercargill (11.4%) areas.


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