Workers and housing pose problems

Following decades of underinvestment and population decline, Clutha seems to be on the up.

Officials speak of "more than 200 projects" planned or already under way, and single project budgets in the tens of millions are bandied about blithely.

However, such frenzied civic activity brings with it its own set of problems - financial, logistical, social - for a strongly rural district with one of the lowest comparable ratios of ratepayers to size.

But it would be fair to say many of the issues facing those at the council table this October will fall under the category: "nice to have".

Councillors will be led in their charge by fourth-term mayor Bryan Cadogan, after he was re-elected unopposed during the recent Local Body Election nomination process.

Under his auspices, the council has been driving for several years a "Living & Working Strategy" for Clutha with clear ambitions to expand inward migration.

This has been hampered by two key factors: insufficient housing, and insufficient appeal, as the mayor himself acknowledged when addressing shrinking school rolls recently:

"Are we sexy enough to attract staff? At the moment, no."

In an environment where a single career with a lifetime employer is the exception, and where work:life balance is tipping gradually towards the "life" side of the scales, people are pickier than ever about where they live and work.

Match that with historically low unemployment levels in Clutha (average 2.1% for year to June), and they can afford to be picky, too.

Many council initiatives begun during recent years aim to enhance Clutha's appeal, in the hope of converting net outward migration into more ratepayers, funding greater growth in turn.

Balclutha has already received a $3million main street upgrade - initially opposed by some, since broadly appreciated - and Milton is set for a similar, $2million project very shortly.

Milton also looks likely to receive a brand new, $5.8million swimming pool/service centre complex at its heart, following the mobilisation of a community working group last month.

Other major investments include up to $10million of ratepayer money for a new, $20million "community hub" replacing the Balclutha War Memorial Hall; and a Provincial Growth Fund grant of $7million towards the Clutha Gold Trail extension between Lawrence and Waihola, boosted by $1million from the council.

Behind the scenes, public sentiment is, by and large, positive - South Otago as a whole believes the transformation can occur.

Already, however, the district's major employers are challenged to fill their rosters - not for want of suitable candidates, but homes for them to occupy.

Despite council's efforts in this area -most notably in Balclutha's Plantation Heights subdivision - adequate housing stock remains a stubbornly intractable problem, and one new incumbents will have to address if Mr Cadogan's vision of a "vibrant" future is to emerge.

Tourism is another potentially sticky wicket for incoming officials.

Communities and entrepreneurs are as keen as anyone to clip the tourist ticket, but particular concerns remain about freedom campers, and managing growing numbers of visitors in such a way as to preserve the very things they are there to see.

The council's recent stab at addressing the freedom camping issue by providing limited, facility-free sites for self-contained vans met with heated opposition from local stakeholders, but will still go ahead this summer on a trial basis.

Gold-loined goose the Catlins remains a tourist and environmental treasure trove, but significant among concerns voiced during last summer's Our Place Catlins consultation was balancing those twin demands sustainably.

On the negative side of the balance sheet is the district's growing methamphetamine problem.

Here, too, the council has been taking a vocal lead.

Although firm statistics remain elusive, police and social services acknowledge the spread of meth is an issue that - if not yet at crisis levels - is in need of immediate and cohesive attention from the Clutha community to avoid serious entrenchment.

The Youth Council-led Methamphetamine Awareness Campaign Clutha got the ball rolling with a march and rally in March this year, and a further wave of hard-hitting educational talks is planned this month.

Canny campaigners could do well to add their voice to the push.

Questions for Clutha District Council candidates

What do the candidates in the 2019 local body election stand for? The Otago Daily Times gave nominees for the Clutha District Council the opportunity to answer the following questions:

1   How will you ensure scheduled multimillion-dollar infrastructure and community development projects don’t affect rates affordability for the district’s low-income residents?

2    What are your goals and what should the priorities be for your council?

Gaynor Finch
Gaynor Finch

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Bruce.

Age: Declined to provide age.

Occupation: Vet nurse.

Question 1: In Milton it is planned to upgrade the main street, also for there to be a new Service Centre Library. I have been part of an exhaustive consultation process to get feedback from the public on their expectations of the upgrades and the long and short-term effects. It is of great concern to me the effects on low-income earners and I will strive to do my best to meet their expectations.

Question 2: My goals are to achieve the best results that are possible for the whole community, meet their expectations, see it prosper the way I believe is possible. Council should be focusing on growth, infrastructure, affordable housing, minimising rates impacts, attracting more industry, having vibrant communities to attract new residents and retaining the youth in our district.


Paul Hanlon
Paul Hanlon

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Bruce.

Age: 71.

Occupation: Management.

Question 1: Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to pay our bills without sleepless nights should be willing to carry a little extra burden. Let's be honest the caring, community-minded public JUST DO IT. As far as community development goes we should demand that funding flows down not up. Why should families pay capitation to support top-heavy, overpaid administrators?

Question 2: Supporting farmers and all industries. Defending their right to harvest and use fossil fuels to enable industry to survive and create jobs. Listen to the people and take their ideas and concerns to the council. Eliminate traffic distractions and make our roads safer. Ensure that council realise that they are not the focus the public are.


Bruce Vollweiler
Bruce Vollweiler

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Bruce.

Age: 64.

Occupation: Farmer.

Question 1: Key to minimising impact on rates of several upcoming large community projects for Clutha is to involve enthusiastic community groups which, with council support, are able to raise funds to enable these to proceed. This already happens with smaller projects in a number of our townships such as Waihola and Taieri Mouth. A group now being formed in Milton will oversee fundraising and development of a proposed new pool, to be co-located with the new library.

Question 2: My goal is to be an effective representative for my community and the district as a whole; being aware of local issues; listening to residents' concerns and take these to council; similarly be active in council decision-making, and explaining resulting decisions to the community. Council priorities are to provide quality essential infrastructure that is affordable and help identify opportunities to attract people, services and businesses to our district, needed to remain a vibrant, sustainable community.



No response received by publication deadline.



No response received by publication deadline.


Hilary McNab
Hilary McNab

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Catlins.

Age: 60.

Occupation: Director/property manager.

Question 1: As a councillor I am asked to balance the needs of my ward with that of the whole district. In my decision-making I endeavour to find a balance between rates affordability for all, keeping council's agreed rates cap to the forefront of my mind, and projects that will progress district infrastructure, looking at all funding options, with the aim of making our district a desirable place to live.

Question 2: Next term goals would be to progress the Hinahina bridge project, along with ensuring the development of the Our Place - Catlins, community plan, progressing the community "wish list", while taking into account affordability for all. The first consultation period highlighted freedom camping as an issue for the Catlins. The Government Freedom Camping Act 2011 means we cannot ban it, I am therefore open to hearing any feedback as to the best solution for all, moving forward.


Geoff Blackmore
Geoff Blackmore

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Lawrence-Tuapeka.

Age: 58.

Occupation: Farmer.

Question 1: It is always a challenge to provide needed infrastructure and community developments without large rates increases. Community developments should be done wherever possible in partnership with other party funding along with the use of loans, repaid over periods up to 25 years, making the payback as the development is used. The same approach is used for infrastructure although other funding is harder to access. In some cases depreciation funds already accumulated will also be available.

Question 2: My goal on council this term is to continue to support an environment for the Clutha district to grow, especially in the Lawrence Tuapeka ward. Construction of the cycle trail extension from Lawrence to Waihola will offer potential for trail support businesses to develop further with associated employment opportunities. Council needs to continue its growth strategy but also ensure the provision of effective and affordable basic services remain its core activity.


Mel Foster
Mel Foster

Council: Clutha District Council.

Ward: Lawrence-Tuapeka.

Age: 52.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Question 1: I believe any major project in Clutha needs broad community consultation with full transparency and understanding of the finances and its implications on residents.

In many rural towns, successful major projects are often driven by the community with funding coming from various stakeholders lessening the impact on the council contribution. This model also means that projects are fully understood and agreed as necessary by the residents who live there.

Question 2: The next three years will be critical for the Tuapeka district as we commit to projects through the community plan and prepare ourselves for the impact of the Clutha Gold cycle trail extension. My goal is to assist these projects through open communication with the community and my "can do" attitude.

Priorities for the council should be determined by community consultation and driven by what our residents, young and old, actually want.


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