Fees hike daft and dopey idea

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Local Govt supremo slams LE.

Queenstown Lakes District Council permitting regulatory quango Lakes Environmental to raise fees to fight falling revenue is “a daft and dopey idea”.

Take that from Local Government Minister Rodney Hide after QLDC last week allowed LE to hike charge-out rates by between one and 29 per cent.

“No business in New Zealand can do that,” says Hide flatly.

“That would be like the supermarket saying, we want to double our prices because people are spending less.

“[LE] shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it because what that says is their charges don’t bear any relationship to their costs.”

In an interview with Mountain Scene after a Queenstown Chamber of Commerce lunch last Friday, the local government supremo took two other potshots at QLDC.

On council plans for flash new offices, Hide says: “I think cramped government is quite good government.”

He’s also not a fan of QLDC’s developer-funded affordable housing trust: “It’s not a core role of local government.

“Local government is to provide the core services and to provide a good framework within which resource-use decisions can be made.

“I always have a little concern when governments start trying to get into the business of business.”

Hide’s also unhappy with the amount of power council bosses have.

“I’m very interested in how we can get proper accountability, particularly of the chief executives, and proper governance between a mayor, the councillors and the executive staff.

“The chief executives clearly can have a very powerful role and you can have a situation where there’s not sufficient accountability.”

Hide also met QLDC last Friday.

“The local council was keen to press upon me the issues as they see it of affordability, where they’ve got infrastructure they want to spend money on but a narrow rating base from which to raise rates, and yet a large number of tourists coming through.

“All I’ve said is if they’ve got proposals for how they could have a better user-pays system, I’m all ears.”

Yet Hide now supports QLDC’s push for some sort of tourist tax – a move he warned QLDC against five years ago.

“[QLDC] should come up with something better – you’ve got to look at tourists coming here as an opportunity, not another head to tax,” he told Mountain Scene in 2004.