September 20 2021 by David Clarke
On the 6th January 1874 the Arrowtown Borough Council came into existence, when the town was declared a municipality. In 1989 the Arrowtown Borough Council was amalgamated into the wider Queenstown District Council but retained 2 Councillors and a degree of planning autonomy under an Arrowtown Ward. 2 Councillors were reduced to 1 in the 1990’s as representation was further diminished.
September 16, 2021 marks a sad day in Arrowtown’s civic history. By way of a flawed consultation process to comply with an arbitrary population criteria and in an effort to appease Wanaka lobbyist, Councillors voted to finally end Arrowtown’s direct representation around the council table after 147 years.
Councillors had the ability to look beyond satisfying a pure numbers criteria and to accept the many submissions from the Arrowtown community that sought the status quo. They chose not to. Under the government guidelines, any review asked Councillors to combine ‘communities of interest’ and by doing this, achieve fair and effective representation for those communities. Consideration had to be given to things like distinct local history, economic and social activities, dependence on shared facilities and transport links etc. Scant consideration was given to these guidelines relating to Arrowtown concerns.
A dedicated Arrowtown ward councillor has worked extremely well since amalgamation. They are there on the ground on a daily basis. Arrowtown has managed its growth and amenity protection well. Arrowtown is a working town and an increasingly popular visitor attraction which makes it an important economic driver for the whole district. Tourism and peripheral growth has put tremendous pressure on its infrastructure, especially areas that need constant council servicing. A local councillor can recognise these problems and act on them. Under the expanded ward there is no guarantee a councillor will even come from Arrowtown.
Arrowtown is special both locally and nationally and the whole district should take pride in that. Even those from over the hill. Heritage, environment and community all remain fragile without strong leadership and oversight. We are not the most beautiful town in New Zealand by chance. It has required a huge amount of work by a large number of people over many years.
The only small consolation is that the newly created Arrowtown Kawarau ward makes more sense than the one originally proposed that stretched all the way from Gibbston to Kingston. I am also encouraged by new young Arrowtown leaders putting their hands up. They just have to get themselves elected to this expanded ward to ensure Arrowtown still has a strong voice.
Former Arrowtown Ward Councillor and battler for the Arrowtown community for 34 years