A petition seeking Wanaka’s secession from the Queen’s Town Lex District Council has received the necessary signatures to begin the Local Government Commission’s investigation.
Wanaka mechanic Dan Rankin’s request has the support of more than 1,600 Wanaka and Upper Clotha locals, and the number is still growing.
“It shows how tired they are of getting the short end of the stick,” he said.
“Obviously a lot of people are not happy and don’t feel like we’re getting the right help on this side of the hill to be part of the council.
“There are a lot of different things that people are worried about, the way the council has handled them.
“It’s just a way to turn the wheels and take the application to the Local Government Commission.”
He believed that the Queen Stown Lakes District Council’s decision based on Queen Stown meant that infrastructure and development in Wanaka were being affected.
“We really just want to start sorting out our nests and looking for our future, instead of going with Queen Stone and what they have to do and what they have to do there.
“We just want to leave ourselves, help ourselves.”
Volunteers even started a phone service to collect signatures from elderly residents who may not be able to access the electronic petition.
Rankin hoped the request would be sent to the commission in the next fortnight.
The unfortunate marriage between Wanaka and Queenstown dates back to the 1980s, when Lake County and Queenstown Borough merged.
But Wanaka and Upper Clotha were smaller than the 13,000 that now call the area home, and will double in number in the next 30 years.
But Colin McLeod, deputy mayor of Queen Stone Lakes and Wanaka ward councilor, said some relationship should be consulted before signing any divorce papers.
“The path to true love is never smooth,” he said.
“Any relationship has its ups and downs. Of course, the tone has changed over time.”
He said that although Wanaka had always been suggested to secede from Queen Town, the rhetoric was strong at the time.
He said this was due to issues such as the possible expansion of Wanaka Airport, the recent review of the council’s representation and the economic consequences of epidemics.
He said that although secession from any union was an emotional issue, the results were not always what was expected – as his native Britain had shown with Bridget.
“It’s the same conversation you get dissatisfied with and then you jump in and the next thing you know … you get into a situation where you say, ‘Well, we moved on, we got emotional solutions.’ Got it, but the practical solution is worse, or it’s a step back, or it’s more expensive, or it’s harder to manage.
“This thinking process needs to move forward and that’s what I’m going to ask – what exactly does our own representation mean?”
He said that the last time such a proposal was investigated, it was found that the separation rate would come with a much higher bill for the payers.
Fellow Vinaka Ward Councilors Quentin Smith and Niam Shaw were also pleased to see what the Local Government Commission’s investigation would yield.
They both deal with their confidence as they choose to embark on their play activities.
Linda O’Reilly, a local government law expert, said that despite the necessary signatures, it was not a foregone conclusion that the commission would launch an investigation.
But even if investigated, recent cases have been reviewed in which the commission has examined the benefits of integration rather than breaking up small regional units.
“I think the idea of a small regional authority is breaking down successfully. In the current climate, it’s not particularly likely that other things are going on in local government – like a full overview of local government in New Zealand.”
Reforms were also underway in the three waters and it was suggesting the possibility of meeting instead of operational small units.
However, O’Reilly said that if the investigation goes ahead and the proposal is successful, the question of secession will go to voters in the area.
But that was unlikely until next year’s local elections, as the commission took two years or more to investigate the options.