Could Wanaka go it alone and govern itself?
That is the question a group of Wanaka residents is asking as
it prepares to investigate the financial viability of the
town splitting from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
However, the district's Wanaka-based Deputy Mayor, Lyal
Cocks, is doubtful the project will be backed by the town's
The group's spokesman, Graham Berry, a former Christchurch
city councillor now of Wanaka, said he represented a core
group of five Wanaka people who had been working on the
privately-funded proposal for months and talking with more
than 50 others in the town who supported investigating a
''Everyone I've talked to loves the idea,'' Mr Berry said.
The group included ''very Green people and what one might
consider reasonably Right-wing people'', with shared concerns
about two competing resort towns being administered from one,
and the lack of ''synergy'' between them.
''Three-quarters of the politicians that make decisions [in
Queenstown Lakes District] haven't got any interest in this
''I think the QLDC has done a really good job of managing the
competition and conflict between the two towns ... but it's
never going to allow Wanaka to really prosper and really take
advantage of the opportunities.''
The group was close to appointing a consultant specialising
in local government to carry out an independent review of the
proposal and to create a ''definitive document about how the
financials stack up''.
The analysis would consider data from this financial year
provided by QLDC finance general manager Stewart Burns, which
details the money spent in each of the district's wards, on
A more detailed financial forecast over at least 10 years was
needed, too, Mr Berry said.
''It's a very complex thing; you can't just do a snapshot.''
While Mr Berry believed Wanaka had grown to a point where it
was feasible its rate base was big enough for the town to run
itself, Mr Cocks disagreed.
''I don't believe the people of Wanaka would be supportive of
this proposal when the indicative impact based on the 13/14
financial year budgets, would be at least a 6.3% increase in
Wanaka rates,'' Mr Cocks said.
''It is hard to see how any benefits would outweigh the
disadvantages of a smaller rate base and the inefficient
duplication of services and overhead.''
Mr Cocks said competition between Queenstown and Wanaka
could, and was, being addressed in ways other than
''Yes, we compete for visitors, but we also piggyback on the
back of the promotion of Queenstown throughout the world to
get more visitors to Wanaka.
''The promotion and competition for visitors is done outside
of council and therefore somewhat irrelevant if we share a
council or not.
''The provision of the necessary infrastructure to cater for
the visitors is, however, more achievable with one council
that has a bigger rate base and greater resources.''
Mr Berry said while Wanaka becoming part of the Central Otago
district was a ''nice idea too'', he personally endorsed
Despite moves nationally to merge councils, he believed small
councils were more efficient.