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‘Constructive suggestions’ on council engagement sought from focus groups

The Wānaka App

Sue Wards

01 May 2024, 5:00 PM

‘Constructive suggestions’ on council engagement sought from focus groupsQLDC is looking for “constructive suggestions” into how its relationship with the Upper Clutha community can be improved. PHOTO: Wānaka App

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) has appointed a research business - with a project budget of around $50,000 - to help it improve how it communicates with the Upper Clutha community

Waikato based Versus Research has already conducted interviews with the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB), alongside three online focus groups of randomly engaged participants, and has begun approaching members of the community for two in-person focus groups.

WUCCB chair Simon Telfer said the board’s views had been canvassed by Versus Research and feedback was also given at a recent board workshop.


Simon said the board “absolutely” expected to see substantive changes from the process.

“The community board has no intention of using this period of review to just go through the motions,” he said.

Simon Telfer said the board expects substantive changes. PHOTO: Jeannine Tuffin

The research is in response to a petition submitted to the Local Government Commission (LGC) in mid 2023 for the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Ward to secede from the QLDC and form its own council. 

After a preliminary investigation the LGC decided against undertaking a formal investigation into the proposal, but it directed QLDC to prepare an action plan to address some of the concerns raised by the petitioner, long-term local Dean Rankin.

QLDC acknowledged at the time there was “clearly some level of perception of inequity amongst the Wānaka-Upper Clutha community”, saying concerns have been ongoing since Wānaka was amalgamated with the QLDC in 1989.

Read more: Upper Clutha community has ‘perception of inequity’

The LGC asked QLDC to work with the WUCCB and others to “identify specific actions targeting improved communication, engagement, and transparency of information”, including consideration of regular meetings and other council activities to be held in the Wānaka area.

In a document outlining the parameters for Versus Research, council said it was not seeking general comment on its performance, service levels or investment. Rather the objective was to “provide representative insight into information and channel gaps/opportunities, level of interest in hearing from and engaging with council, and constructive suggestions into how engagement, representation and the relationship can be improved”.

“We are interested in understanding why people don’t feel engaged, heard or represented and how we can respond to that.” 

Part of the research involved contacting Wānaka residents who have previously registered for the council’s Let’s Talk community engagement platform, offering them the opportunity to take part in the two-person focus groups.

The focus groups (chosen by Versus to be representative of the Upper Clutha community) will take place later this month.

A council spokesperson said the council’s action plan, which will be made public after Monday May 31 when council presents it to the LGC, is likely to include a summary of feedback from the focus groups.