Quango backs down

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Community outrage forces rethink on junior sport fees

 

The controversial council quango that manages the Wakatipu’s sports facilities is trying to get back into the community’s good books.

Queenstown Lakes District Council and its Lakes Leisure offshoot are doing an about-face and proposing to drop ground fees for junior sports players.

The move follows a year of public backlash against the new LL – which has been accused of operating a “big city model” and running “the risk of being decoupled from the community” by charging for youth sport on its turf.

As a result, the Wakatipu Sports User Group was formed specifically as a pressure group.

LL boss Fiona McKissock confirms QLDC recommended the current user charges model be revised and other options investigated.

It’s proposed ground hire fees – $24 for trainings and $48 a game – are dropped for kids.

“There’s been a feel from the community that they would like junior sport to be free,” McKissock says.

Costs will likely be offset by ratepayers – the matter’s yet to be ratified by QLDC.

It’s fair to say it’s been an annus horribilis for QLDC’s newest quango. “We’ve certainly had some teething problems,” McKissock admits in an interview last week.

But it’s not LL’s fault, she says – QLDC sets the policy and the company has to work within that.

“There’s definitely been a lack of understanding of why LL was set up.”

And LL isn’t empire-building: “As of July 1 [2008] there was a huge spike of what came into the responsibility of LL … the team numbers have grown to cope with the workload.”

McKissock denies LL has an image problem:

“No, we’re just working. This is what our role is – to provide leisure and manage facilities for the community. There’s a lot to achieve in setting up a new entity.

“Everything we do at the [Events Centre] is for the community.”

But with recent issues like Alpine Aqualand’s fast hydroslide still closed while independent assessors check the design, plus local private gym owners crying foul over the soon-to-open council health and fitness centre, there’s still a way to go to soothe community discontent.

“We are increasing our line of communication going forward as well.”

As for McKissock, she’s undeterred by her rocky first year in the job: “It’s been great. It’s a fantastic role to be able to provide sports and leisure in the community. I’m committed to Queenstown.”

Wakatipu rises up: Lakes Leisure’s greatest hits

Nov 13, 2008 

Queenstown Primary principal John Western speaks out against new “community rates” his school is charged by Lakes Leisure – $144 daily to use the Recreation Ground and an unknown subsidised price for Memorial Hall

Dec 11

LL closes $20 million hydroslide to redesign problem corner, revealing 69 people have been injured

Dec 18

Father of QLDC’s “user-pays” model Rene Kampman claims at public meeting that LL risks becoming “decoupled from the community”. He’s shocked his six-year-old had to pay to use Events Centre tennis courts

May 21, 2009

Privately run Queenstown Gym and Pulse Fitness bosses fume at LL plans for competing fitness centre at Alpine Aqualand

Jul 30

Queenstown Gym co-owner Sarah Kerby claims LL boss Fiona McKissock poaches top personal trainer Richie Heap to run fitness centre. McKissock denies it, saying Heap “wanted to work for Lakes Leisure”.