Queenstown’s mayor Vanessa van Uden voted against adopting a proposal to increase council planning fees and charges.
At the council’s full meeting in Queenstown on Friday, van Uden questioned planning and development general manager Tony Avery about what internal work was being done to improve efficiency in light of the proposal to increase fees and hourly charge-out rates by between 5 per cent and 25 per cent.
Avery’s report says fees and charges had not increased since 2009 and did not meet the costs of providing for many of the services.
“There is a need to increase those fees and charges in order to meet the council’s funding policy and in order to recover costs appropriately.”
Van Uden says one of her problems with the resource consent processing is applicants are charged an hourly rate.
Because the council is not meeting its funding policy in terms of cost recovery “there’s an awful lot of non-chargeable time”.
“I’ve sat around this table for eight and a-half years. To date, despite repeated requests for some analysis … we are still sitting around using the same excuses again and again and again. That may be happening in departments, but around the [council] table, we have nothing visible.
“It’s fine to do the increase in fees, but there’s a whole raft of other work that I have repeatedly asked for and it hasn’t been done.”
Van Uden says the council has reviewed its fees and charges “at some speed”, but she hadn’t seen “the same sort of commitment to improving what we do”.
Avery says there is a push to keep better track of staff time and drive efficiency.
“There’s been a tendency to spend a number of hours on a consent and thinking it’s too much to charge, so they’ve written it off.”
Van Uden requested a monthly report including the percentage of chargeable hours and explanation for any deficit or otherwise.
The council voted to adopt the statement of proposal for consultation.