LINK Upper Clutha is the central government-supported, locally-driven community development scheme that is working to connect our community as it grows.


A united approach to community development and social and economic enterprise in the Upper Clutha


Build community success through innovative partnerships and coordinated infrastructure


  • bold and creative in our approach, innovative in our thinking,
  • inclusive in our relationships, open-minded and respectful in our differences,
  • appreciative of our diversity


Kathy Dedo, LINK Facilitator

Sophie Ward, LINK Coordinator

Ruth Harrison (Wanaka Community Board), LINK Steering Group Chair

LINK Steering Group members: Ella Lawton, Kate Murray, Brent Harridge, Tim Ryan, Deb Inder, Celia Crosbie, Nathan Weathington, Grant Ruddenklau, Mark Watson, Mandy Deans and Wayne Hudson


The United Nations defines community development as “A process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” Community wellbeing (economic, social, environmental, and cultural) often evolves from this grassroots action.

New Zealand is investing in regions that are ready to energise their efforts. The Alpine Community Development Trust won a three-year grant from the Department of Internal Affairs to fund a Community Development Scheme for the Upper Clutha. We are one of twelve regions awarded the grant in the 2016-2018 cycle, which will fund coordination and execution of a community development plan.


Wanaka is at a crucial point in our development, needing to build a strategic, coordinated community infrastructure to accommodate our high growth rate and future-proof our success as a region. More and more people are flocking here, with growth being both our opportunity and our challenge. Opportunity because more people in the Upper Clutha bring money to fuel the economy, innovative ideas to inspire, and children to be nurtured and grown in our local paradise. Challenge because all those people need places to live, jobs, schools, health care, and ways to enjoy our spectacular environment without destroying its beauty.

The Local Government Reform Act of 2012 eliminated councils’ responsibility for community wellbeing. This has resulted in decentralisation and absence of responsibility for the heart and mind of our community. There are many talented people who are passionate about picking up where local government left off, but the organisations they create to do good are sometimes uncoordinated, siloed, and replicate effort. Multiple organisations with similar goals often tap the same talent and funding pools.

Community wellbeing can’t happen without an effective infrastructure that supports that growth. The Community Development Scheme allows us to work with leaders across community sectors to build unexpected partnerships and produce innovative solutions that make the most of our strengths.



We spent the past year focused on setting the foundations, including recruiting a steering group of diverse community leaders to guide the project, led by our original champion, Councillor and ACDT Trustee Ella Lawton. We spend a lot of time looking at both demographic segments of the Upper Clutha and skill sets we needed, and did our best to cover them all. We established clear governance and processes in working under the auspices of the ACDT, which is the fund holder, sponsor, and ultimate governance body for the scheme. The Steering Group developed a name, vision, and mission for the scheme – LINK Upper Clutha.


We conducted a four-month long asset mapping exercise, identifying and cataloguing our region’s community group, economic, and physical assets. We’re currently working on making that a useful tool that can be available to anyone to use. We’ve worked on awareness raising and relationship building, to widen the circle of people who understand what community development means and what it can mean for us. Our job in late 2016 has been to facilitate true community-led development, which means we ask the community to tell us where to focus the resource we have to offer.


How to be community-led? Talk to people, and listen. Quick, pointed conversations have happened by asking “the 3 Questions” – What do you love about your community? What could be even better? How can you help? We’ve done this in person in already-established “bumping places”, and will go wide with a 3Qs campaign in the new year. The goal is to hear from as many people as possible.
We’ve also gone deep by interviewing key stakeholders and community leaders about what makes successful connection and community building – uncovering stories in more detail that highlight our communities’ strengths and opportunities.


It’s hard to engage with people if they aren’t engaged with each other. So, we’ve already focused on improving connection at a street and neighbourhood level, encouraging neighbourhood gatherings and associations. Check out our “How to Guide for Neighbourhood Gatherings” if you’d like to encourage place-based connection where you live!


LINK has also been functioning as a community connection incubator, with groups looking for support as they start, develop, or evolve. With the asset map and expertise through our staff and steering group, we are providing information, ideas, and networking to accelerate these groups toward their own goals.


Between the wide and deep engagement, a picture is coming into focus that will inform specific projects to support in 2017. By the end of March, we will have a comprehensive community development strategy with specific areas of activity established to achieve the LINK vision.


ACDT provides governance for LINK Upper Clutha. ACDT also operates Community Networks Wanaka, our region’s social service hub.