Envisaging change, more transparency and consultation

The Otago Daily Times continues its series of profiles of mayoral candidates. Fifteen people say they should be the next mayor of the various district and city councils in the wider Otago-Southland region. To help voters make informed decisions in the 2019 elections, we ask candidates who they are, what they stand for and how they would handle the big issues facing their district. Today, Mark Price puts the questions to the Queenstown Lakes district mayoral candidate Nicholas Kiddle. 

Nicholas Kiddle.
Nicholas Kiddle.
Nicholas Kiddle

Age: 60.
Occupation: Owner/operator NMIC Ltd.
Council experience: International councils and conferences.
Describe yourself in three words: Inclusive, respectful, leadership.

What is the main task facing the council in the next three years?

Improving governance is the main task ahead. We are at a crossroads and must choose between staying the course - one that largely ignores community views and prioritises growth - or change.

I want a strong community voice in local body decision-making. Defining issues deserve full public debate and community-guided outcomes. They are too significant to leave to small groups of largely unanswerable people with narrow interests. We need to reforge a transparent and respectful relationship with the community and open council records to public view.

How do you see the airport issue playing out over the next three years?

Decisions on air passenger movements (and urban development) define the shape of our future and the look and feel of our district. There should be no expansion of Queenstown's noise boundaries nor developments at Wanaka Airport until we have worked out a collective approach. The current emphasis on increasing passenger movements and revenue needs to be counter-balanced immediately with objectives around community values and social and environmental aspirations. The council's climate action plan and its long-term development planning needs to be reinforced and not undermined by its handling of aircraft movements. I would lead a district hui to share information, hear all views and map out the vision, core objectives and limits for our airports.

What form of visitor levy is the best way forward and why?

Visitors to our district spend $2.4billion a year here and they should pay for things that they use, including basic infrastructure. Talks are under way in Wellington to design a new visitor levy and I am striving for options that pose the lowest risk to our local economy, the least negative effect on businesses and employment. The simplistic approach taken by the council falls short of its revenue target by $17million, leaving ratepayers exposed. I am seeking a broader-based levy, one which captures more visitor expenditure, fills the $17million gap in the council's proposal, but does not drive visitors into freedom camping and day trips. We need to avoid risks around negative downstream effects for all tourism-related businesses, while exempting locals from new charges.

What are some of the other issues the council will need to focus on over the next three years?

Urban growth needs more careful management. There are thousands of sections and residential units already in the pipeline. Incentives should be in place to encourage these housing opportunities to be fully realised and populated with residents. Plans for new developments should be smart about density where taller buildings have no adverse impact on view corridors or panoramas. Above all, let's protect our iconic natural features for us to enjoy and as habitat for our indigenous flora and fauna.

One of our greatest taonga, our fresh, pure water, is calling for urgent help. I say ``no'' to the council's 35-year right to pollute application. The focus should be on contractor performance and public education. I would apply much greater pressure on the regional council to help us understand and combat the spread of foul algae in our lakes.

What makes you think you are the best person for the job?

Because I am seeking a change of direction. A vote for me is a vote for change.

If elected, is there one thing you would like to be able to claim credit for at the next election? (2022)

Restored confidence between the council and the community and the resolution of differences over airports, environment and tax.


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