Deputy mayor Calum MacLeod’s bold goals for Wanaka
When Calum MacLeod opened the doors to Cinema Paradiso two decades ago, he owned four second-hand armchairs.
Now, countless chairs and couches later, he occupies one of 11 chairs around the Queenstown Lakes District Council table.
The avid furniture recycler was born on Scotland’s Isle of Arran and came to Wanaka in 1989 with his Kiwi wife, Andrea.
He’s also recycled himself through local politics: about 15 years ago, he took a turn on the Wanaka Community Board but withdrew from politics when children, Angus and Ngaio, arrived.
The kids are teenagers now and MacLeod is now serving his second consecutive term as Queenstown Lakes District councillor.
In November, he inherited the deputy mayor’s mantle from a long line of Wanaka deputy mayors, including Lyal Cocks, Sally MIddleton and John Wilson.
Although MacLeod acknowledges his district-wide role, he has bold plans for the Wanaka ward as it grapples with the boom in tourism, construction and traffic.
He is happy to be the go-to man for the Wanaka whinge, but makes no bones that the next six months are the most important for planning the future of the town.
MacLeod has an obvious desire to “get things done” and admits he could spend his whole time mowing reserves.
But he won’t, because he wants ratepayers to take ownership.
“I don’t mind that [whinge]. What gets me down is if nothing happens. One of the goals for me is to change the perception of ratepayers to customers. It is about providing a good experience [of the council]. So if someone comes to me and says “Faulks Terrace is not being mowed, what’s the story”, well, give it some love, come up with a mowing management plan,” MacLeod said.
And this is exactly what happened, with the plan signed off in December last year.
Last year, MacLeod became a disciple of Seattle community development guru Jim Diers.
He particularly liked Diers’ question – “What have you NOT done today?” .
Setting up the “Friends of Faulks Terrace” group and empowering the neighbourhood to take it from there was a consequence of Dier’s visit to Wanaka, he said.
“I am a bit sick. I kind of love it, the people side of it,” he confessed.
“Wanaka is fully engaged. That’s why I don’t mind the whinge. People care passionately. Wanaka is the kind of town that will man the barricades and get things done,” he said.
When it comes to getting things done, MacLeod has lists of lists.
His “top five goals” were published on Facebook during his September election campaign and he’s now trying to get budgets for his “top 10 how to dos” into the long term plan.
Although the long term plan review is not due until July 2018, he wants to “crack on” now.
“We don’t do anything if we haven’t got a line in [finance manager] Stewart Burn’s long term plan, so mid 2017 is when we need to have our ducks in a row,” he said.
Some of those ducks are pristine lakes, “sustainable growth”, the “Towards 2050” plan; fresh water issues, lakefront development, Sticky Forest biking infrastructure, and “entire community engagement”.
One of Wanaka’s long standing whinges is that local representatives don’t appear to lobby hard enough for the ward, while big-sister Queenstown gets the attention.
How effective does MacLeod think he can be for Wanaka around the Queenstown table?
“Ages ago, when I was ranting about Wanaka’s new town hall, I was pulled aside by a lovely old man and he said, “Calum, you are doing it all wrong”. He had been in the Allied Forces at Monte Cassino . . . and he said “If you charge up the front, you are going to get mowed down. What you need to do is sneak around the back, lob a few grenades and then go back around the side and go from there.” Now, with Wanaka Airport, we could, as a community board, stand up and say we want [so-and-so] in charge and that would immediately disqualify everyone from any further input. It is all very well to make the bold statement, but I want to be the conqueror of Monte Cassino,” MacLeod said.
“To be honest, I think Jim [mayor Jim Boult] and the others do get it. What I also hear around the table are voices for Kingston, voices for Arrowtown, voices for Glenorchy.”
“I am Scottish. We hate the English and have done for ever. But you have to get on with your neighbour,” he said.
For the next six months, MacLeod intends to “crack on” about Wanaka’s parking, traffic congestion and public toilets.
These are things the town needs to get on top of now, because the tourists are coming, he said.
“We HAVE to identify where we want park and ride, where the medical centre overflow parking will go. Every town on the planet is looking at park and rides, from Wanaka to Sydney to Paris. If you looking at e-bikes and e-cars, the number of people using these are going to explode,” he said.
MacLeod also wants people to consider a car-free CBD because he reckons Wanaka could double its 6,474 population in as soon as eight years.
“A lot of people say to me, we can’t let that happen. Guess what. It’s going to happen. But the Wanaka vibe, if we can maintain that vibe, we will have done well.”
So far, good luck has protected Wanaka from the worst of Queenstown’s growing pains. But Wanaka must protect traffic corridors to avoid the congestion suffered by the bigger town, MacLeod said.
“And everyone needs to put walkers and cyclists first. Wanaka is like a model. Its bone structure is there. What we do in the next 20 years will determine whether that model looks like Helen Mirren at 70, or something a bit more nefarious.”
Parking buildings? “Bugger off,” he said. “One park in a building costs $40,000. It only works if there is nothing else. In Dunedin, a parking building only fills because the streets are full. You can’t park for more than five minutes on the street in Dunedin without getting something up the wazoo. All that happens is people move further back to free parking. We will end up with people parking in Tenby Street and Golf Course Road, although they probably already are. If people want us to put in a parking building, we will do it. But no-one will use it. If you build for cars, you get cars. If you build for people, you get people,” he said.
MacLeod does not imagine he can achieve everything on his own. The Wanaka Community Board and his fellow councillors Ella Lawson and Ross McRobie were his best allies in getting things done for the town, he said.
“If you imagine the community board as a competitor in the Iditarod, [chairwoman] Rachel Brown has the reins, Calum MacLeod is the lead dog and everyone else has to pull in behind,” he said.
“What would be really great in 50 years or so is if my son Angus, or whoever was sitting in my place, would think “That was a smart move”.”