A local bloke through and through, Dean Rankin was born and bred in Wanaka, and has spent most of his adult life in the town he loves.
His family originally moved to Wanaka from Cromwell back in 1971, and Dean was born seven years later in 1978. He and his older sister were among the early students at Mt Aspiring College. After secondary school he went on to do a mechanic’s apprenticeship, studying at Otago Polytech before returning home to work at the Wanaka BP workshop, pouring petrol at night and the weekends to earn extra pay.
In 1999 he spent six months in Australia, but when he had the opportunity, he returned home to what he calls his “dream job”- deer-shooting from a helicopter on the West Coast. He was 21 years old.
Two years later a bad car accident near Fox Glacier left him with a broken neck, smashed jaw and head injuries. A slow recovery followed, along with a loss of shooting accuracy. No longer able to work in venison recovery, it was “home to Wanaka and ‘the spanners’ again.”
Back and settled in Wanaka, he left his mechanic’s job to work for his dad as a crane operator at Aspiring Cranes, a job he would do for the next 10 years.
In 2004 he bought his first home. A year later, his friend Zivvy moved in as his flatmate. In 2010 they married and now have three children: Liam, Ethan and Kaitlyn, who has just turned five years old and started school in Wanaka. Zivvy is a nurse, and in recent months has been working as a Covid vaccinator in Wanaka.
Seven years ago, Dean decided to set up his own business, Spannerworx, on family land on the outskirts of Wanaka. “I service everything from 50cc motorbikes to heavy diesel vehicles and jet boats,” he says.
“I wanted the freedom of working for myself, and it’s meant I have time to do some heli-shooting again.” Dean shoots for his mate, James Scott, a pilot who owns a helicopter business on the West Coast.
Besides his love of shooting, Dean was a passionate rugby player until his car accident. “I played hooker and now I support my boys’ rugby. They’re both very keen.”
Music also runs strong in the Rankin family. His dad is a talented musician who “played a lot around the region in earlier years” while his sister, Robyn is married to well-known local singer, Paul Tamati.
Dean himself learnt and played the drums as a kid and performed several times in “Stars in Your Eyes” a popular annual Wanaka community event. Now he says he loves teaching his own kids how to play.
What then motivated this Wanaka bloke to suddenly get involved in local politics? What made him feel strongly enough to start a petition supporting Wanaka to break away from QLDC and establish its own district council?
“I'm not into local politics, just sick of seeing what QLDC is doing,” he says. “It was driving along Ballantyne Road every day and seeing all the resources going into making the footpath between Golf Course Road and Three Parks. What it was costing us as ratepayers and how long it was taking.”
He’s not just concerned about what he sees as QLDC’s inefficiencies though. He believes that too often out-of-town contractors are being used by QLDC, instead of local businesses to complete infrastructure work around the town, and he’s also concerned about what is “not getting done”.
“We urgently need more roundabouts in Wanaka,” he says. “There are already frequent accidents at the crossroads between Ballantyne Road and Riverbank Road, and the build-up of traffic at other intersections, like Anderson and Aubrey Road is another big problem.”
He also questions whether Wanaka is getting its fair share of rates money. “Our broken wharf on the waterfront says it all.”
Ultimately, he believes that Wanaka has “a lot more going for it than Queenstown”.
“It’s growing at a faster rate than Queenstown and has a really bright future, if it’s managed correctly.”
For Dean Rankin that means Wanaka and the Upper Clutha breaking free from QLDC and establishing its own independent district council.
“The petition is a first step on a long road,” he says.
He says by land area, QLDC is the sixth largest district council in New Zealand and of the 67 councils around the country, 20 of them are smaller than Upper Clutha.
So far, he has had “overwhelming support” with over 1600 Wanaka people signing his petition, more than enough to trigger an investigation by the Local Government Commission, and it is not over yet.