Leisure tax revolt

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Some Wakatipu sports clubs fear they’ll face closure if forced to pay a proposed new leisure tax. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council wants to charge clubs a 7.5 per cent commission on gross turnover of food and beverage sales, gaming machines and equipment sales – plus a 5 per cent commission on coaching income. 

A plan to increase the cost of some land leases is also afoot. 

Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes insists it’s simply a bid to evenly recover maintenance costs for facilities on reserve land and make rentals fair for all, but the draft policy has angered many sports groups. 

Wakatipu Rugby Club president Damien O’Connell believes the new charges would “hit sports organisations in the guts” on top of increased land rentals and his club would “struggle to survive”. 

Pensioner Molly Casey, president of the 25-strong Wakatipu Croquet Club, howls: “They’re asking us to go from $250 to $935 [for land rent] and we haven’t got that many members. 

“Our secretary reckons we’d become insolvent if we had to pay that rent,” she says. 

Queenstown Golf Club board chairman Peter Adam says the proposal means the Kelvin Heights course land lease would actually drop from $14,000 to $8000 a year – but not till the current lease expires in 33 years’ time.
However, paying a commission on food and beverage sales would “cost us an awful lot more than the decrease in land rental”, he says. 

“The council should not be looking at sports and leisure groups as a source of income.” 

Queenstown Tennis Club president Teresa Chapman says countless hours are spent by volunteers helping to run the club and grow tennis as a sport among youngsters. 

“Should we turn round and bill [QLDC] for all the community hours as volunteers we’ve put in?” she says. 

Wakatipu Sports User Group boss Craig “Ferg” Ferguson says he’s been told the annual amount QLDC wants from sports groups is “somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000”. 

“It’s only a relatively small amount…so why can’t it be ratepayer funded?” 

Geddes insists QLDC’s not profiteering. 

“All the council is seeking to do is recover a modest amount [5 per cent] of the total cost of maintaining these assets,” he says. 

Geddes believes the land lease part of the policy aims to make it equitable for all clubs. 

“Over a long period of time there’ve been a whole lot of separate deals done between the council and clubs and organisations, and it’s led to some paying less than others do and we’re just trying to even all that out. 

“The ratepayer at large is still paying by far the greatest whack of the maintenance of sport and recreational 
facilities.” 

Geddes says QLDC wants to rein in some clubs that use sports facilities as “profit centres”, but he concedes not all clubs are like that. 

He expects concerns to emerge in the hearing process following the public submissions phase – which closes tomorrow.