Slimline Queenstown council paying off – chief executive

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Queenstown council’s new lean and mean approach is paying dividends says its chief executive.

Adam Feeley points to the zero rates increase and $21m reduction in forecast borrowing in 2012/13 for evidence of cost-cutting successes.

“Councils have been directed to get back to the basics of delivering cost-efficient and good quality core services,” Feeley says – referring to changes to the Local Government Act.

“In this regard our organisational review has resulted in improved financial performance; reduced debt levels and much higher resident satisfaction.”

The council’s annual report was adopted at yesterday’s final full council meeting before the local government elections.

It lists highlights for the year including the zero rates increase, $21m borrowing/debt reduction against 10-year forecasts, an $11.4m surplus and $330k reduction in annual accommodation costs due to office rationalisation.

That rationalisation was made possible by the full reintegration of Lakes Leisure and Lakes Environmental back into council.

“This result shows that local government can deliver good quality services to residents while still reducing operating costs and managing long term debt,” Feeley says.

The annual report notes good progress on several major projects, including the Wanaka Sports Facility, Project Shotover and the Queenstown Convention Centre, as well as the completion of the $3.2 million refurbishment of the Memorial Hall (council contribution $992,000).

Delaying and deferring infrastructure projects has allowed for debt reductions – saving council $21m in borrowing compared to what was originally forecast in the 10-year plan.

The proposed extension of the Queenstown Event Centre has been deferred until 2016-17 and $4.4 million of expenditure relating to water supplies has also been delayed or deferred.

Several roading projects have been pushed back, including the proposed $3.5 million Frankton Flats arterial road.

Feeley says council’s 2012-13 survey showed resident and ratepayer satisfaction increased to a near-record 85 percent.

The annual report, available online, contains full financial statements as well as details on the delivery of all the council’s services and activities.