Forget gold-plated offices


$413m debt blowout means QLDC must cut, says Van Uden.

A local councillor is slamming Queenstown Lakes District Council’s grand plans to build a $30 million office block amid warnings of skyrocketing debt.

Vanessa van Uden is shocked QLDC’s already spent $600,000 on scoping and design work for a “gold-plated version” instead of investigating cheaper options – and says ratepayers haven’t been given enough information.

“We’re going for a superior building and this community will be funding that.”

Only scant details of the pro­posed new Gorge Road building appear in QLDC’s draft 10-year plan out for public consultation.

Mountain Scene reported in September 2007 that secret plans include about 4600sq m of floor space, six gas fireplaces at $8000 each, eight showers at $3000 each, $326,000 worth of carpet and 10 bathroom vanities with stone tops worth $40,000.

QLDC wants to get all its core services and key quangos under one roof – staff work in six diff­erent locations – to avoid public complaints about poor communication.

The building leases expire in the next two years.

QLDC’s draft plan says there are two options – either continue renting or go for the new building, which will be half-funded through a joint venture with a private company.

The office proposal isn’t new but the fact it forms part of the draft long-term plan when the council faces $413m of debt by 2019 is “excessive”, Van Uden says.

“To be spending $600,000 on even thinking about a building is appalling, when we are sitting there saying we can’t realistically fund our required capital works projects for the next 10 years.”

QLDC is deferring several necessary infrastructure projects in a bid to reduce debt.

The move follows a report – released last month – by the Auditor General’s appointee, who criticised QLDC’s long-term plan as “not financially prudent”.

Van Uden: “We need to be seriously looking at the need for each and every project and cutting our costs where we can.

“Nice-to-haves [like new council offices] are not an option when there are has-to-haves out there.

“Members of the community have been given very limited information on which to base their support or not of a $30m investment.”

She’s urging people to have their say on the plan before submissions close on May 22.


Oops, sorry, says quango as showering netball umpire surprised by males in changing room

Wakatipu Netball’s president has blown the whistle on an accidental shower encounter involving a female umpire and three men.

Sharron Ede says the volunteer umpire was getting out of the shower in a female changing room at the Events Centre recently when confronted by three male soccer players who’d since come in.

Events Centre operator, council-owned quango Lakes Leisure, has apologised for the incident, she says.

The oopsie was revealed at a meeting between sports groups and LL last Monday night.

It was blamed on a “communication breakdown” between sporting codes and Events Centre staff.

The soccer players had hired the facility – at $28 a day – but the netballers, who pay up to $40 per court, hadn’t been warned.

“We assumed the changing rooms were part of the [court fee] deal,” Ede says.

“It wouldn’t have been a big deal if we were told about [the soccer booking].”

Ede hasn’t spoken to the unnamed umpire involved and isn’t sure if she was caught in the nude but “it was not very nice for the person involved”.

“You wouldn’t want anybody to have that sort of thing happen to them.”

All parties have now “come to an agreement [on] what we can use”, Ede says.

Sports groups, unhappy with LL fee hikes imposed on them, met this week to prepare a submission to QLDC’s draft 10-year plan.