Unexpected return . . . New Waitaki District Council heritage and planning manager David Campbell. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

After a tour of Otago, David Campbell has returned to the Waitaki District Council.

Mr Campbell started in his new role as the council’s heritage and planning manager late last year, after spending the past eight years away from the district.

Returning to the Waitaki District Council, where he worked as the planning manager from 2009 to 2013, was not planned, he said.

But when Hamish Barrell vacated the role and the opportunity came up, there were plenty of good reasons — being closer to family and the Awakino Ski Field being at the top of the list — to take it.

Mr Campbell grew up in the Waimate area and graduated from the University of Canterbury with a master of arts (honours) degree in geography, before gaining a postgraduate diploma in resource studies.

He worked as a planner at the Invercargill, Porirua and Christchurch City Councils, before getting into consultancy work, and moved to Waitaki in 2009 to take on the planning manager role at the Waitaki District Council.

After about five years in the job, he moved to the Clutha District Council, to take on the role of planning and regulatory manager. It was a smaller council than Waitaki, but a broader role.

A desire to put his focus back on planning drew him to Central Otago in 2019, and he was kept very busy as the council’s planning manager, due to the district’s rapid growth.

He learned plenty from his Clutha and Central Otago roles — ‘‘everywhere you go you have different experiences’’ — and was now bringing those experiences back to Waitaki. He was particularly interested in upgrading the Waitaki District Council’s systems to be more digital and user-friendly for customers in the planning space.

‘‘Just looking for those opportunities as a manager to come in and see if there’s any things we can do better.’’

Much had changed in the Waitaki district over the past eight years, and he enjoyed seeing projects that were in the pipeline when he was last at the council come to fruition, and more investment in the area.

‘‘When you’ve been away for a few years, it’s quite nice to see things that have been started, and completed.’’

Mr Campbell started back at the council near the end of the spatial plan consultation process, and had been getting familiar with the plan and the feedback received, and how it could be incorporated into the district plan review.

The district plan review would be a big focus for the year, and he hoped there would be good engagement from the community in the consultation process later this year.

Mr Campbell had inherited a ‘‘really good’’ team of staff, and said growing capabilities was one of the more rewarding aspects of his role.

‘‘I also quite like the interface with councillors. They’re often coming into it without a lot of experience or background in that space, so just helping them understand the issues we deal with, and likewise the customers, it’s helping them interface with the district plan and consent process — it’s all foreign to most people.’’

Mr Campbell was happy to be back in Waitaki. He loved the diversity of the district, and the ease of access to the high country, lakes and mountains.

‘‘I think we’re pretty lucky, we’re spoilt in that sense,’’ he said.

Outside of work, he is the secretary-treasurer for the Waitaki Ski Club, which operates the Awakino Ski Area near Kurow in the Waitaki Valley.

He has been involved on the committee for more than 10 years, and visited the skifield regularly, even when he was living in Clutha and South Otago.