Quintin Howard, Property Director at Queenstown Lakes District Council shares his take on life in the South.
A little over a year ago I moved with my family to this stunningly beautiful part of Te Wai Pounamu. Although we have been holidaying in Queenstown for years and my partner descends from Kai Tahu and the Awarua/Fortrose area, I have never worked or lived in the South Island.
My career in local and central government has been mostly Wellington and Auckland based. I have been involved in large complex projects and am responsible for a multi-billion-dollar government property portfolio. This move south would be a change for me in a number of ways. I was very interested to learn the differences between my previous roles in those large North Island cities and my new role in a much smaller South Island community.
What I have found:
I have found that lots of others are moving here. The growth seems to be driven by opportunity. Those opportunities include the promise of a refreshed lifestyle amongst spectacular scenery. Opportunities to change careers or start new ones. This growth is leading to natural pressures on infrastructure. I am finding people are keen to resolve these infrastructure pressures in positive and innovative ways.
While the people moving here are bringing skills and enthusiasm, there remains high value in long term locals. People with local knowledge and long-term history are rare and valuable, yet every small community has them. The people I have worked with, that have been here a long time, carry a genuine passion for this place and want to see that the changes happening are for the best and lead to better outcomes that enhance the place.
This is reflected in community consultation where people are obviously engaged and come out in good numbers to have a say on local projects. I have had more people from the local community come out to a recent open day about a relativity small project than I did in Auckland for a very significant $300 million transport project.
I have also found that the people I have met and work with have an aptitude to be ambitious and nimble. Perhaps this is a natural result of being surrounded by a culture of getting things done.
The nature of the communities I’m working in also mean that there is a high percentage of development in a relatively small number of property owners and developers. This is a lot of power and control in a few hands. However, this level of influence provides the ability to be ambitious and get things done in a better way that is so much harder to achieve in a larger city. We can achieve a high level of quality urban design by working with a small group of property owners.
Although the communities I’m working in have smaller populations, the projects are significant and place defining. I have always been driven by wanting to have a real impact on the place I live. This is one of the beauties of working for local government, and I’m finding it easier achieve this in this new place.
The newly opened Luggate Memorial Hall is an example of some of the best of these attributes. A few years ago, it became clear that the previous hall would need to be replaced. Instead of choosing a basic and potentially lower construction cost option, the community chose to invest in an innovative and class leading facility built to passive house standards. The ultra-low energy building will provide a warm heart for Luggate and has been designed to have minimal operational costs over the life of the building.
The focus on low operational costs will mean the building has a much lower whole of life cost than a traditional design. In addition, the building was designed and built using a largely prefabricated panel system from a local company. This means that if the Council wants to repeat the build with a similar facility in another location, they can significantly save on the design costs and construction time by ‘pressing print’ on another hall. This newly opened Luggate Memorial Hall provides a recent example of how smaller communities can lead New Zealand in innovation and transitioning to more sustainable design.
Quality buildings and high-quality urban design are valued and needed in all the places we live. It has been positive to see that my new home and community values these attributes as much as the previous places I’ve lived and worked. And perhaps due to the skills, enthusiasm, passion, ambition and nimbleness this new community is better placed to respond to future challenges and changes.
Property Director, Queenstown Lakes District Council
Quintin is an experienced Property Director with a demonstrated history of working in the local and central government. He has a background in infrastructure planning, transportation planning, emergency management, resource management, aviation, and urban design.
Quintin is currently building the property team at Queenstown Lakes District Council.