Feeley cost-cutting era over


Queenstown Lakes’ Adam Feeley era is over.

Under its former chief executive, the district council spent years cost-cutting and restructuring to keep rates relatively flat.

But little more than a month after Feeley has left, the council is outlining plans to spend $1.4 million on new staff, mainly for consenting and planning work, and almost double the budget for its district plan review, from $3.3m over four years to $6.3m.

The Mike Theelen-led council also wants to finish early Queenstown’s $23.6m sewerage system upgrade and the $12.3m Wanaka Pool – made possible by the mothballing of a controversial $70m convention centre.

Other than the already flagged increases in council fees and charges, the council – through its annual plan consultation document – is asking the public to approve several large changes to its long-term plan:

  • $232,000 for a transport business case to ease traffic flows;
  • $250,000 to investigate a new Queenstown headquarters built on council-owned land;
  • $500,000 for undergrounding power lines along Ladies Mile, as long as Delta pays another $500,000;
  • $30,000 to fight the invasive water weed lagarosiphon.

The overall rates increase in the 2016-17 annual plan, to be signed off at an extraordinary meeting of councillors tomorrow, is 2.56 per cent, lower than the forecast 3.27 per cent.

Rates on a residential property in Queenstown worth $670,000 will rise 4.4 per cent, or $110, under the plan.

A Wanaka house worth $552,000, meanwhile, will face a 3.75 per cent rates hike, or $93.

The biggest rises, for median house values, are for Lake Hayes (6.53 per cent) and Arrowtown (5.56 per cent).

On the same scale, several non-residential property types will get decreases: Queenstown commercial (-0.66 per cent); Wanaka primary industry (-0.03 per cent), Wakatipu primary industry (-2.31 per cent) and Wakatipu country dwelling (1.15 per cent).

The $23.6m sewerage system upgrade, dubbed Project Shotover, is being brought forward six months, to be finished in December.

As a result, rates will rise $120 for each Queenstown and Arrowtown connection, $210 for Lake Hayes and Shotover Country and $60 for Arthurs Point.

The draft plan says: “Further increases will occur in 2017-18 as this will be the first full year of operation.”

The year’s capital budget has been slashed $5m to $81m , thanks mainly to a $6.2m reduction in the Wanaka Aquatic Centre budget, because of timing, and the $1.5m deferral of rising main work from Shotover Country to Glenda Drive, while further investigation is done.

That means the council will take on less debt.

Meanwhile, the council’s operational budget has shot up $7.1m, mainly for increased depreciation, staff costs and the district plan review.

Some of this will be offset by already flagged cost increases for resource consents, animal control, environmental health, liquor licensing, leases and parking.

In the plan, Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden said it might be seen as “consultation lite” but community views would be considered seriously.

Submissions to the plan close on April 29, hearings are expected to be held in late May and early June and it will be adopted on June 30.