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Licence to Pollute “the last straw” says Council candidate

Our Council’s vision and decisions must respect the real fear that Queenstown Lakes residents have for the future of our environment, says candidate Niki Gladding.

“When Council applied for permission to pollute our lakes and rivers with raw human sewerage and industrial waste, it was the last straw,” says Niki. “Who in their right mind – parent, businessperson or tourist – would think that’s OK? How is it even an option when communities get their drinking water from these lakes?”

She says it was presented to residents as a move towards transparency and improving practices but is quick to point out: “You don’t spend $600,000 on a resource consent to discharge without limits if ‘doing better’ is your goal. You spend that money upgrading the network.”

She describes the application as “preparing for growth at all costs, even the degradation of our lakes and rivers” and says it should be withdrawn immediately.

With a science degree and planning background, Niki says “I’m standing for council, because now more than ever, we need a strong voice for the environment and for the community” She adds, “There is no need for councillors if they consistently defer to ‘expert’ opinion instead of representing the people who elected them.”

Niki has essential experience in environmental planning and community legal actions. She’s co-Chair and researcher for Aotearoa Water Action, working with communities to challenge consent decisions that threaten their water. Her research exposed NZTE’s active promotion of NZ’s water to international bottling giants; and in the last two years, organisations she founded have taken three water bottling companies and their local councils to court.

“If I see wrongdoing or poor decision-making, I try to fix it or expose it. There are a lot of people actively challenging our council right now. That should be encouraged - we need strong local democracy.”

On growth she says, “Council has acknowledged it needs to do more to protect water quality and it has declared a climate emergency. That’s great, but the decisions coming out of Chambers don’t match the rhetoric or align with our communities’ concerns. They’re still pushing this self-defeating ‘more bums on seats’ approach to tourism, still talking about the need to meet demand as though we have no option.”

“Right now, QLDC has the option to amend the Airport Corporation’s Statement of Intent, to limit airport expansion in line with communities’ social and environmental goals. But it’s clearly reluctant to do that. We need to know whose agenda is being prioritised.”

Niki believes that if we look after our environment and our people, we’ll always have economic opportunities. She says we’re lucky to have a district full of smart passionate, innovative people who are prepared to engage and do the work.

Her message to the council: “Let’s change the M.O. Be transparent, encourage debate and be genuinely open to input from the community you serve. People here aren’t averse to change, they’re just fighting for the right change.”

Niki hopes her science background, environmental focus and work with community groups can provide some much-needed balance to the business focus of council.


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