By GUY WILLIAMS
Accommodation providers are threatening a rates revolt if Queenstown’s council proceeds with an inflation-adjusted rise.
Apartment operator and former mayoral candidate Nik Kiddle, who leads the Lakes District Accommodation Sector group, says its 70 members want a rates freeze, and have made a
submission on the council’s draft annual plan to that effect.
If the council approves a rates rise next month, the group’s 70 members will ‘‘actively consider a revolt, and we’ll do it en masse’’.
But mayor Jim Boult says the council’s working to minimise the impact of any increase, and talk of a revolt is ”extreme and some-what irrational’’.
Kiddle says most of the group’s members are experiencing ‘‘severe financial hardship’’ and
cutting as much expenditure as possible.
That includes laying off staff and negotiating with banks, lessors and utility companies.
‘‘So for the council to be coming along and adding more costs to the outgoings of businesses at this time is totally wrong — it’s callous.
‘‘I know 1.8 per cent doesn’t sound like much, but in this environment every cent counts.’’
The council plans to adopt the annual plan on June 25, with any rates rise to take effect on July 1.
The draft plan originally proposed an average increase of 6.76 per cent, but finance boss Stewart Burns said last month it’s aiming to limit it to 1.8 per cent, despite facing a large reduction in tourism-related revenues.
Boult tells Mountain Scene it’s undertaking a comprehensive review of its original budget, but, in line with ‘‘central government’s directive’’, needs to spend sufficiently to kick-start the economy and generate up to 1600 jobs.
‘‘This will ensure that we actually have a future local economy and the ability for locals to put a meal on the table for their families.
‘‘I would suggest rather than jumping to an extreme and somewhat irrational position of ‘revolt’, that we all wait and see what the outcome actually is.’’
Kiddle says the group wants any rates increase deferred until the worst effects of Covid-19 have ‘‘washed through the economic system’’.
Most accommodation providers can survive for about six months, by which time they’re hoping domestic visitors — and potentially Australians as well — will return in sufficient numbers to provide a revenue lifeline, he says.