Pitches made for votes in by-election

The candidates for the vacant seat on the Queenstown Lakes District Council burnished their contrasting qualifications for the job before an audience of local Grey Power members yesterday.

The meet-the-candidates event at St Margaret’s Church Hall in Frankton was the first for retired lawyer Phil Wilson, consultant Esther Whitehead and businesswoman Emily Rutherford.

Mr Wilson said the council was doing well addressing issues arising from the "immense" population growth of the past few years.

That included the recent release of a draft spatial plan and the $1billion in new infrastructure the council had allocated in its current 10-year plan.

He had the "time, experience, knowledge and skills, and the determination" to continue the work of retired councillor John MacDonald in providing high-quality governance, he said.

Ms Rutherford, who said she was "definitely the underdog", said she wanted to be a "true voice for locals who often don’t feel heard".

Answering questions at a Queenstown Grey Power meeting yesterday are Queenstown Lakes District...
Answering questions at a Queenstown Grey Power meeting yesterday are Queenstown Lakes District Council by-election candidates (from left) Emily Rutherford, Phil Wilson and Esther Whitehead. PHOTO: GUY WILLIAMS
Showing a portrait of her great-uncle, an air force pilot who died in World War 2, she said he had helped inspire her to run for council because "bulldozing" the Queenstown Memorial Centre to make way for the arterial bypass project was disrespectful.

She was also concerned about the threats to the few remaining facilities for cultural activities in the resort, such as the Memorial Centre and QPACT rooms.

Ms Whitehead focused on her professional and community activism, emphasising her work in climate action, human rights and sustainability, including the Food Rescue programme she had started in the resort.

She was standing for the council because she was caring, competent and had experience in governance and policy analysis.

"Our legacy today is our grandchildren’s future and their reality, so let’s think ahead but act now."

The Wakatipu ward seat was previously held by Mr MacDonald, who resigned for health reasons last month; voting papers for the postal vote will be delivered from May 20, and a preliminary result released on June 11.

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