QLDC price hikes ripping heart out of local teams, claim duo.
Two local sports stalwarts are calling a public protest meeting to tame Queenstown Lakes District Council’s newest “beast”, Lakes Leisure.
Craig “Ferg” Ferguson and Merv Aoake say there’s so much community “dissatisfaction” with the council quango that something needs to be done before it’s too late.
Lakes Leisure – set up early this year to manage and “enhance” recreation, arts and sports facilities in the Wakatipu – has been under fire for months from sports groups and parents over high fees.
Local schools are also affected – Queenstown Primary and Wakatipu High now have to pay thousands of dollars for school grounds to be mowed.
Ferguson, who’s actively involved in swimming, running, junior rugby clubs and the Bruce Grant Youth Trust, says QLDC brought in a “big-city model” that doesn’t match the community and isn’t cost-effective.
“I think we are trying to be like a big city. We are not – we are a small town … and here we are getting walloped.
“When I was down at the high school last week I saw LL mowing the ground, [QLDC contractor] Asplundh doing the edges, Dunstan Paving doing the ditches and the [school] groundsman doing his work.
“What’s the cost of that?”
Ferguson, a former Events Centre trustee, says LL and QLDC aren’t thinking about anticipated “phenomenal” growth in the local sporting community: “We are jam-packed at the moment – sports clubs can’t even get onto LL facilities. Hockey players can’t even train at the Events Centre.
“Sport and recreation is a part of our lives and it needs to be looked after, and it’s come to a point where this new beast – LL – has to adjust.”
He shudders to think what Events Centre creator, the late councillor Joe O’Connell, would make of LL.
“Times have changed but I think Joe would be turning in his grave [with what’s happened].”
Aoake, a Wakatipu rugby volunteer and Sportsmagicnz boss, says there’s no “connectivity” between sports groups and LL.
“We don’t have anybody we can go up to and say, ‘what’s happening here?’.”
Both sport supremos say it’s the youth who suffer by effectively having to pay twice to play – their membership fees and community grants and donations received by their clubs are all going into LL’s pocket via unnecessary increased charges.
“That’s disadvantaging some kids because of the costs – they can’t afford to play,” Aoake says.
Ferguson adds: “Community groups are wondering how they are going to pay the bills – is this really fair at a youth level?
“I think everyone’s realistic enough to understand user-pays but I think youth sports should be immune to that.”
The men, backed by about 20 other sports-minded locals, have invited QLDC councillors and LL bosses to a public meeting next Tuesday at Queenstown Primary’s hall from 7pm.
It’s not a “witch-hunt” and it won’t get “confrontational”, they insist.
Mayor Clive Geddes is unsure whether he’ll go along – he’s already spoken to a range of groups who have approached him.
“I’d prefer it if people could go direct to council but I’m quite happy to go there to hear [them].”
Geddes doesn’t sense widespread discontent with LL: “The feedback I get is that there is some concern from a small group of people.
“I get as much positive feedback of LL in respect to their operation and management of the aquatic centre, the vastly improved standard of maintenance of sports fields…and an improved management system of the Events Centre land for the use of those very large youth events around cricket, soccer, etc.”
For the second week in a row, LL’s $116,000 a year boss Fiona McKissock wouldn’t front for a normal verbal interview with Mountain Scene.
That’ll do, says Lakes Leisure
No, it’s not a giant grass paperclip – this is the running track Lakes Leisure cut for Remarkable Runners after the club tried for months to get a replacement for its original Events Centre track.
The initial 400 metre track – oval in shape – was encroached on by the new Alpine Aqualand carpark.
LL agreed to find a new home for the track and, after moving the runners to two other less-than-ideal spots, the quango finally settled on an area close to the original – but not really somewhere to run races on.
It includes a 100m sprint area, bending into a small 200m track – LL’s version of a 200m sprint area. Runners would run round again to complete a 400m run. Newly-added cuttings extend the track to make a 400m oval.
It’s certainly not what you’d see at other athletics and running clubs for competitions and personal bests, says Remarkable Runners and Remarkable Children’s Athletics volunteer Simon Spark.
“What we asked for and what we got wasn’t the same thing. We can’t even have a full track,” he says, stressing it’s “not a reflection of Events Centre staff”.
Hydroslide closure just the latest cock-up at Lakes Leisure’s Splash Palace
Lakes Leisure’s pride and joy, the new $20 million Alpine Aqualand, has had a bumpy ride since opening in May this year.
On Tuesday, LL revealed 69 people had been injured on its fast-speed hydroslide – six received mild concussion – and it’s closing the slide to redesign or “detune” a problem corner.
It’s not yet certain who’ll carry this extra cost, nor how long it’ll take to get fixed. And the hydroslide isn’t the only cock-up:
- November 13: Lap pool closes for a week because of a bubble in the lining caused by blocked inlet valve
- November 1: QLDC approves a $625,000 cost blowout on the swim centre
- August 12: Air temperatures drop 6degC below normal after a copper heating coil freezes
- June: Pool struggles to maintain designed operating temperature – it’s 2degC below the required standard