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New LINK Upper Clutha initiative to connect people, organisations in Wanaka

New LINK Upper Clutha initiative to connect people, organisations in Wanaka


The first comprehensive study of community assets and services in Wanaka and surrounding areas is underway thanks to a new homegrown initiative, LINK Upper Clutha.

LINK Upper Clutha – formerly known as the Upper Clutha Community Development Scheme – is a locally-driven, central government-supported entity focused on connecting people, organisations and infrastructure within the area to ensure a united approach to community development and social and economic enterprise.

As the Queenstown Lakes District experiences unprecedented growth, the number of Upper Clutha businesses has increased, school rolls have exploded, and hundreds of community groups and social services now exist. This uncoordinated growth can result in fragmentation of organisations and services. With Wanaka at this crucial point in its development, LINK’s purpose is to understand what services and organisations exist in the Upper Clutha already and facilitate a strategic, coordinated community infrastructure to future-proof success as a region.

Since obtaining a $240,000 grant over three years from the Department of Internal Affairs in October 2015, a local volunteer steering group has been formed, branding of LINK is due to begin and two people have been employed on a part-time basis. Well-known community leader and former corporate strategy and communication specialist Kathy Dedo has been appointed as LINK’s Facilitator and experienced project manager Sophie Ward is the LINK Coordinator.

In the past four months, Ward has been undertaking a comprehensive analysis of groups and services across all community segments, in the Upper Clutha – in a bid to understand what assets the community has and how they can work together to better connect the community.

LINK steering group chair Ella Lawton – who spearheaded the project in conjunction with the Alpine Community Development Trust – says Ward is applying methodology used in cutting-edge asset based community development projects around New Zealand and the world.

“The main aim of asset mapping is to connect people and resources together. We start with what our community has – what its strengths are – instead of what it doesn’t have, and then look at how we tackle the inevitable needs and gaps collaboratively,” Lawton explains.

“What we have found in our research is there is a massive overlap in some areas – for example there are more than 100 community groups, with areas of duplication and there could be greater connection between them. In some areas, there’s strong support while in others there is very little. The next step is to look at how we can support all these groups – whether they’re sports, social services, environmental, business-focused or government- so that we can all move together as the region grows.”

Initial findings include:

  • LINK has identified 204 community groups and service providers serving the Upper Clutha area, comprising 106 community groups and 98 service providers (including health care and education providers)
  • Organisations include social services agencies, health and education providers, sports clubs, environmental groups and organisations devoted to arts and culture.
  • 70% of these organisations are either 100% focused on the Upper Clutha community or have staff or volunteers working specifically for the Upper Clutha community.
  • The top three categories are: Social and Community Services (29%), Healthcare (18%) and Sport and Recreation (17%).

At the same time the research was undertaken, the steering group began the first round  of LINK’s ‘pop-up engagement’ sessions. The idea is to find out what people love about the Upper Clutha, what could make it better and the personal and professional skills our community collectively has to achieve the best outcomes. These will become a regular activity throughout Wanaka and other communities.

“We’ve discovered that while we have all these groups, people still want to feel connected to their community. There is something missing. That’s what we intend to do with LINK – look at ways to connect and include, so that in a growing community, people don’t feel isolated,” Lawton says.

LINK’s research findings will be put into a report, to be released next month. The team will then produce a strategy and action plan for the next steps.

“LINK allows us to work with leaders across community sectors to build unexpected partnerships and produce innovative solutions that make the most of our strengths,” Dedo says. “True community-led development means getting comfortable with the unknown – at this point we don’t know what initiatives might come from LINK.  But we’re committed and excited about engaging with people over the next two years to find out.”

LINK’s steering group members are: Ella Lawton (chair), Liz Breslin, Celia Crosbie, Brent Harridge, Ruth Harrison, Deb Inder, Kate Murray and Tim Ryan.


Photo caption: LINK Upper Clutha Coordinator Sophie Ward (left) and steering group chair Ella Lawton

For more information, please contact:

LINK Upper Clutha Steering Group Chair Ella Lawton:, 021 735 981
LINK Upper Clutha Facilitator Kathy Dedo:, 021 130 6276

Celia Crosbie
Written by Celia Crosbie
Celia is an award-winning former journalist who has worked for newspapers and radio stations in New Zealand and magazines in the United Kingdom. She has worked in public relations in both NZ and London. Celia also specialises in digital media strategy and website copywriting for SEO.