Chamber shows teeth

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Deja vu for mayor as business body slams QLDC plan.

The influence of all community groups waxes and wanes but the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce star is in the ascendant right now.

Queenstown Lakes District Council could scarcely admit it but the business body’s hard-hitting submission on the council’s 10-year plan may have been the tipping point leading to last week’s cancellation of QLDC’s $37 million office block.

New council premises were in­­appropriate “in the current environment”, the chamber submission said, accusing QLDC of “inconsistencies between various [council] plans, lack of further consultation, lack of transparency [and] the incurring of unnecessary costs”.

If QLDC opted for the new building, it could expect calls for “a transparent process including actual leasing costs [for comparison], a cost-benefit analysis, full disclosure of alternative options and a public tender process”, the chamber warned.

Faced with promised trench warfare, QLDC backed off.

Mayor Clive Geddes may find a certain irony in the 250-member chamber’s new-found clout. He headed the business body as executive director for about 18 months from 2000, using the post as a springboard for his successful mayoralty bid later in 2001.

As now, the chamber under Geddes frequently criticised the council of former mayor Warren Cooper.
Geddes this week chuckled at the irony before resorting to well-honed diplomacy.

No, the business group’s submission wasn’t a total surprise, he says – Geddes and council boss Duncan Field regularly liaise with chamber chief Ann Lockhart and chairman Alastair Porter, although some aspects of their submission weren’t foreshadowed.

“I don’t have a problem with [the chamber’s strong stance],” Geddes says.

People affected by council decisions should get the chance to have their say and the opportunity “to float ideas”.
Three or four ideas from the chamber “are worthy of further consideration”, the mayor adds.

Such as the “super-board” of businesspeople to run Destination Queenstown and QLDC quangos such as Lakes Leisure? “We’d need to know a lot more than is in the submission.”

Among other things, QLDC was roundly criticised for:

  • An “unsatisfactory timeframe” for consultation over the 10-year plan, just 20 working days
  • “Discrepancies and/or difficulties” in identifying funding sources in the plan for certain projects
  • A lack of “rigorous” cost-cutting in difficult times
  • Using the “council-controlled organisation” model for quangos such as swimming pool and sportsfield quango LL
  • Allowing LL to compete with private enterprise in setting up a new gym

QLDC will formally adopt the 10-year plan – with amendments – on Tuesday.