Candidates call for new focus by ORC

Some Wanaka residents are speaking out about the increasingly pricey town amid an influx of...
A aerial view of Wanaka. Photo: ODT files
All six candidates standing for the three-seat Dunstan ward of the Otago Regional Council agree the council was too "Dunedin-centric".

At a public meeting in Wanaka yesterday, candidates Michael Laws, Alexa Forbes, Phil Hunt, Graeme Bell, Richard Bowman and Gary Kelliher all said they would make the ORC focus more on the quality of the region's lakes and rivers and engage more with the regional community.

Incumbent Michael Laws praised the calibre of the other candidates and said the issue for voters was "not who to vote for" but what would happen around the council table over the next three years.

"To be perfectly honest with you, the ORC is a beast that is not fit for purpose and hasn't been doing its job, probably since it was formed."

The day after the councillors were elected, there would be an "almighty scrap and they are going to have to stand up to council staff and say, `Not good enough - do it again' or `Not good enough - come back with different options'."

Former Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman described the ORC monitoring of the Upper Clutha lakes and rivers as "sparse".

"There is next to nothing known about the behaviour of the lakes. They are just assumed to be vast quantities of pure water coming out of pristine land on the Main Divide and nothing to worry about, but it is like trying to say that the patient is well when you are taking the temperature once a year."

All nominees agreed the ORC should not spend $30million on a new headquarters but on fixing environmental issues such as lake snow research, pest management, wilding pines and water quality.

The meeting yesterday in Wanaka was the first of six planned over the next 10 days..

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