Council to hike fees, hit land bankers


Wakatipu land bankers, watch out. Farmers sitting on developable land could be hit by rates rises of up to 154 per cent.

Eateries, dog owners, consent applicants and hydroslide users also face price hikes as Queenstown’s council reviews rates and fees.

The proposals are contained in a wide-ranging report to tomorrow’s full council meeting in Wanaka by council chief financial officer Stewart Burns.

The report looks at ways to encourage the release of zoned land and deter land banking by owners, suggesting tweaking the rating system to hit owners in the pocket.

At present, rates are applied to land based on its existing use, for example, farming.

But that ignores the land’s underlying zoning.

Burns wants the council’s vacant sections rating category to change to capture all undeveloped land zoned to allow development.

“The impact on properties currently rated as primary industry would see the rates increase by 43 per cent to 154 per cent, depending on location and connection of services.

“The average increase for the 11 properties modelled was 86 per cent, [a] total increase of $132,000.”

Also examined in the review are activities where charges aren’t meeting funding targets.

Eateries and dog owners, those applying for resource consents and Alpine Aqualand and waterways users, are all likely to face price hikes.

Burns’ report proposes increased registration fees for de-sexed, dangerous/menacing and “all other dogs”, with no change to fees for guide/companion or working dogs.

Impound fees might also rise.

Users of Queenstown’s Alpine Aqualand will also be hit in the pocket. Changes include casual hydroslide charges being hiked from $2 to $5, and a child’s casual visit rising from $3 to $4.

Burns says the council should investigate a broader “waterways fee” for users of boat ramps, jetties and navigation aids.

Changes to regulations are required to allow infringement notices for non-compliance and it’s expected to increase revenue by $56,000, or 235 per cent.

He also recommends the council review fees set under the waterways bylaw and return to an annual fee regime. That was expected to increase revenue by 20 per cent, or $24,000.

Registration, inspection and auditing of food premises will be more expensive, largely as a result of extra work required under the new Food Act 2014, introduced on March 1.

However, those with residential flats might get rates relief.

Burns says there’s a “clear inequity” between rates for visitor accommodation providers and those with a residential flat.

He proposes a new differential rate for houses with a residential flat, reducing the rates by about 20 per cent, making it slightly less than the amount paid by those registered as a short-term homestay.

A report to the council next month will discuss cost increases for most consent applications.

All changes will be in its upcoming annual plan.

Otago Daily Times