Residents oppose service integration

The idea of integrating council services into the Wanaka Library was rejected again by some residents at a public forum last week.

The Thursday evening meeting in Wanaka gave the public a chance to give feedback on recommendations released last week by the Queenstown Lakes District Council's library task force and independent consultants on the future of library services in the district.

It was attended by about 50 people, including task force members, councillors and council staff.

Several members of the public reiterated concerns the integration of a service centre into the library - first mooted in last year's council restructuring and endorsed by the council's consultants - would mean a downgrade of library services.

Council operations general manager Ruth Stokes said such integration was ''very tried and true across New Zealand for many council networks of similar size to us'', such as in Taranaki and Selwyn.

Those communities had expressed similar concerns their library services would be ''diluted'', but the opposite had happened.

''They bring more people to the library ... and we're actually about freeing our library staff to add value to people.''

Wanaka Public Libraries Association committee member Dame Sukhi Turner said she ''would like to rebut everything'' Mrs Stokes had said.

''Our library is quite active; it's very full, perhaps it needs more space, and I think anything to interfere with that ... would take away from that,'' Dame Sukhi said.

In contrast, task force member and Grey Power representative Betty Gray, of Queenstown, said Grey Power members would appreciate a ''one-stop shop'' with council and library services combined.

Resident Kathy Dedo said not enough information had been provided on how the library might change as a result of integrating a service centre.

''I think part of the problem is the picture hasn't been painted well enough what that might look like for us here in Wanaka.''

Mayor Vanessa van Uden stressed the council had ''categorically'' not made a decision to put service centres in libraries.

If the council endorsed the idea, a capital works programme would be required which would then be subject to an annual plan consultation.

There was also some discussion about RFID (radio-frequency identification) strips on books which Wakatipu High School librarian and task force member Paula Bell said would make library ''housekeeping'' much easier and give the option of introducing a self-issue service in the future.

One woman said recommendations in the review for service improvements were ''very broad-brush'' and should not be applied to the Wanaka Library, which was already exceeding performance standards.

Mrs Gray supported a new modern library in Frankton, but fellow task force member Paul Tamati said it would be too costly.

It was suggested the council could work with the Ministry of Education to establish a Frankton library as part of a new school already planned for the area.

That idea also came up at Wednesday night's library forum in Queenstown, which was attended by just nine members of the public.

Ms van Uden said the library review was on the agenda for next Thursday's council meeting in Wanaka, where councillors would either endorse it in its entirety, or make changes based on feedback received.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz