QLDC: Council candidates

What do the candidates in the 2010 Queenstown Lakes District Council election stand for? The Otago Daily Times has given all nominees the opportunity to answer two questions.

1: Voters are concerned about the level of council spending. How will you keep rates down while retaining essential services?
2: What are your goals and what should the priorities be for your council?

Queenstown/Wakatipu Ward
(Six required)

Annette Dalziel
Primary school teacher

1. In order to address existing and growing debt, I intend to promote brain-storming sessions at the council table to set priorities for spending, assess if potential spending is wanted or needed, and see if it is needed for the greater value to our residents.

I will encourage business opportunities owned by council to stimulate money coming back into our local economy and investigate how present council systems can be moulded for our greater economical benefit.

2. My main reason for standing is to research and debate environmentally friendly and sensible pricing of sewage system in the Kingston area.

My biggest issue is that rates cease to increase. Household budgets can't accommodate any further increases.

Every Wakatipu resident should benefit from the money they spend on rates. Tourism has left residents out of the picture, as the emphasis is continual promotion for commercial growth.

Mel Gazzard (65)
Bed and breakfast operator

1. Essential services need to be well maintained and new infrastructure built. The associated costs need to be minimised by ensuring maximum efficiency in operational and capital expenditure in a competitive market.

Borrowing for new capital work is the logical means of spreading costs forward to future users and containing rates increases.

Ideally, we could capture revenue from visitors who necessitate an infrastructure much larger than our ratepayers can easily afford.

2. The newly elected council's first priority should be to focus on growing the Lakes District as one of the world's premier visitor destinations while maintaining an affordable and desirable lifestyle for those who choose to live here.

Councillors will be faced with demands from the conservative through to the progressive sectors of the community. I would favour the progressive.

Cath Gilmour (50)
Councillor

1. We need to delay big ticket items such as gov-ernment-imposed sewage treatment and water standards where we can.

We need to lobby strongly for government funding where resultant costs are not sustainable for our population.

We need Toyota Corolla not Rolls-Royce jobs, the best expertise at best life-of-project price, efficiency, sound planning and vision.

We need an equitable balance of long-term debt, costs on current ratepayers and future residents' infrastructural needs.

2. My goals are to continue being an effective, action-oriented advocate and representative who consults, researches, thinks and makes decisions with our long-term community interest, common sense, accountability and integrity as touchstones.

Our priorities should be ensuring Wakatipu has sustainable infrastructure and is a thriving community where people of all ages can contribute and be supported, while nurturing the environment and economy on which our community's health and wealth depend.

John Mann (60)
Caterer

1. Aside from servicing debt, the key driver for our rates level is council's operating expenditure, including the maintenance of the community's assets and the delivery of services.

With the change to the contracting and service provision environment, I think council has a real opportunity to secure long-term savings and efficiencies.

With the experience of two terms, I believe I can deliver results for the community by a complete revaluation of our existing providers.

2. Our council's principal challenge is to tackle our future capital works programme.

There are over 1500 items identified in the 10-year plan as being necessary for growth or as prudent to minimise the risk to our assets and maintain our levels of service.

Along with management and colleagues, I have been working for 12 months on reassessing the whole programme and my primary goal is to present a sustainable programme to our community.

Russell Mawhinney (50)
Lawyer

1. Council should revisit the 10-year plan, prioritise all capital projects, and defer lower priority ones.

Infrastructure maintenance is top priority. Council should not be involved in activities that are not council functions. Inefficiencies within council budgets should be eradicated.

Broaden the rating base by establishing an economic development body. Consider options such as public-private partnerships to reduce outgoings. Sell non-productive assets (eg vacant land) to reduce debt.

2. Get debt and costs under control. Commit to a clear strategic vision. Get council functioning better with council making decisions and staff advising councillors and implementing council decisions.

Establish an economic development unit. Bring the community back together.

The QAC issue is destructive. None of us wins from infighting.

Clear-headedness, strength of character, balance, and good listening skills can turn this around. I provide all of these.

Kevin Peterson (62)
Company director

1. This remains the biggest challenge for the council to face. What needs to be done is a further review of future capital expenditure projects, prioritising those which are deemed essential to maintain our growth targets.

Some of the "wish-list" certainly needs to be deferred if we are to avoid further increases in rates.

2. My goal is to bring a business approach to council using my experience in finance and management, in order to highlight the need for accountability and transparency in all council operations.

The priorities for council should be to properly manage resources available and to ensure all essential plans/projects are completed in the most efficient and cost-effective way without impacting on rates.

The annual plan needs careful and constant review to ensure targets are being met.

Simon Stamers-Smith
Did not respond

fil[[{Preston Stevens (53)
Self employed architect

1. To effect and direct initiatives in the exploration of options for alternative funding streams. Review existing and future operational costs and spending obligations towards achieving efficiencies.

Research cost-effective methods of procurement. Apply value-based assessments and results-based testing of existing and new programmes.

At the same time, ensuring the district achieves and upholds a status as a quality international tourist destination that has sustainable and steady growth.

2. My goals are to work within council so it concentrates on the big picture and brings a creative and visionary approach to the future of the district; works towards taking care of and protects our fantastic natural environment; executes initiatives in fiscal management as set out in the answer to question one; is effective in promoting our community's social, cultural and economic well-being.

All of these should be council priorities.

fil[[{Karen Swaine (46)
Museum archivist/researcher

1. Responsible governance is needed to control spiralling costs. Council's over-zealous spending habits of the last decade are not going to be resolved quickly or easily.

However, we cannot simply reduce discretionary spending. We need to find mechanisms for achieving spending efficiencies.

We should start by finding the consultants, contractors and council-controlled organisations who have been clipping tickets.

We must also strengthen and diversify our economy to expand our ratings base.

2. Open democracy. We need to open council chamber doors. The practice of conducting public-excluded sessions without strong justifications for doing so has to stop.

We need to find out where the council-controlled organisation model failed the democratic process in the recent Queenstown Airport deal.

We can no longer continue ignoring our infrastructure challenges. Delayed projects like the Shotover sewage treatment plant and bypassing historic bridges on major thoroughfares have to be made priorities.

fil[[{Trevor Tattersfield (69)
Company director

1. Keep rates down by restructuring debt to reduce interest payments for current ratepayers; rescheduling capital projects to realistic/sustainable level while maintaining essential services; demanding costs are contained within revenue by a moratorium on external consultants ($18 million per annum), council-controlled organisations operating within own revenue (no ratepayer levies), reducing roading costs by reviewing procurement and contracts, and reviewing utilities and solid waste contracts; capping rate increases to CPI; pursuing external funding opportunities.

2. Reduce operating costs as outlined above, with rate increases capped to CPI. Reduce long-term debt to realistic and sustainable levels.

Ensure essential services are at realistic/affordable levels, while maintaining our "point of difference".

Ensure the district receives an equitable share of government funding for roading, for example, to advance the Kawarau bridge replacement.

Take an active role in provision/local management of health services, and stemming the tide of violence streaming from our "party town" image.

user[[{Grahame Thorne (64)
Television producer

1. Queenstown faces more challenges than other councils because we not only need to fund an infrastructure for our residents, but also for one million tourists annually. We cannot sustainably fund this through rates alone.

I propose that tourists pay their fair share and I believe a bed tax is most likely to be the most beneficial solution all round.

It warrants investigation and, if viable, I will move quickly to get this in place.

2. My goals are a financially healthy council with an emphasis on economic growth through the implementation of an Economic Development Board.

I would provide a blueprint for tourism expansion by creating an Events Strategy Board to co-ordinate events.

This ensures we capitalise on opportunities for growth and work together to increase Queenstown's profile as an outstanding tourist and conference destination, while maintaining high standards of professionalism.

Number one priority? Getting rates under control.

user[[{Geoff Wilson (62)
Business owner

1. As a first-time candidate, it would be nigh impossible to give a concise, accurate answer. I note on studying the annual plan the past council did have minimal success in cutting costs as part of its budget. Very commendable.

By overall increases in rates it is obvious other areas have blown out. With 36 years of managing/budgeting my own businesses, I think there will be areas where greater efficiencies can be gained.

2. The most concerning item has got to be the debt owed of $100 million. At current interest rates, repayments would have to equate to at least $5 million per annum.

All effort has to be and must be made to reduce this. The annual plan suggests if the current annual rise in borrowing is allowed to continue it could reach $400 million by 2019.

I believe this is unacceptable.

Arrowtown Ward
(One required)

user[[{Lex Perkins (70)
Semi retired/councillor

1. Council provides a huge amount of infrastructure, but the fact is council struggles to maintain its core services while rates continue to rise. It is imperative that all users share costs of those essential services.

Our small ratepayer base is at breaking point to sustain the one million tourists annually our district needs to survive. We must take an unequivocal case to Prime Minister John Key and finance Minister Bill English for funding.

2. Arrowtown, without a doubt, is the jewel in council's crown. It is imperative we retain Arrowtown's iconic status, protecting the village atmosphere while preserving its historic precinct.

Arrowtown differs from all towns throughout this district. What is right for other towns may not be right for us.

Solutions come from understanding Arrowtown. My priority is to continue to provide a secure, healthy community that is strong, diverse and inclusive of everyone.

s[[{Simon Spark (39)
Business owner

1. The QLDC finance committee needs to have a budget structure in place to monitor council spending on a daily basis so there is no massive overspending surprises discovered at the end of their financial year.

Putting operational budget surpluses into reducing short-term debt will reduce interest costs, money which can be returned to the infrastructure budget if required.

Rates increases are directly related to the cost of council debt.

2. Returning the QLDC operational budget to surpluses to reduce short term debt, which is the most expensive to finance. Reining in rampant consultancy spending and prioritising big-spend projects in the 10-year plan.

Putting more money into asset management programmes to gain a better understanding of the future spends required on essential infrastructure replacement projects. Exploring alternative revenue streams to pay for priority projects by involving the innovative thinkers of our community.

Wanaka Ward
(Three required)

J[[{Jude Battson (56)
Community worker

1. With infrastructure needing so much upgrading due to the population increase and projected growth, QLDC has already made significant cuts and included staged progress for essential infrastructure in the 10-year plan.

I support a think tank approach to the use of any discretionary funds to ensure that ratepayer funding returns the best value for money and is used for essentials only. All contracting out and use of consultants must be scrutinised and transparent.

2. I am motivated, trustworthy, hardworking, capable and passionate about our community and environment. Goals and priorities include increasing revenue from tourism, listening to the needs of businesses and families and providing explanations to ratepayers when making big spending decisions.

I believe in community driven decisions and sustainable planned progress for major projects such as the sports facility. It is paramount to consider the needs of people and the environment first.

L[[{Lyal Cocks (54)
Councillor

1. To reduce the burden on rates and debt I will support the ongoing review of all capital projects to determine their necessity or if there is a cheaper alternative; seek critical assessment of overheads and operational costs and make changes necessary to achieve greater efficiencies; and work to identify and use alternative funding sources such as visitor taxes, tolls, private/public arrangements or dividends to fund activities normally funded by rates or loans.

2. I will continue providing dedicated representation and support to complete planned projects including the development of new sports facilities for Wanaka, improving our water infrastructure, and appropriately developing Wanaka's airport. I will also continue working with other community groups to strengthen the district's economic base and positively influence our social culture.

The new council needs to agree the strategic direction for the next three years and then work as a team to achieve it.

Jo_Dippi[[{Jo Dippie (51)
Bed and breakfast owner

1. Rates increases will continue unabated until council takes a stand on spending. I hope to work toward a council stripped back to its core services. This will mean reducing staff, mainly at the middle management level. It may mean placing non-essential services up for tender where they can be better managed by local firms, and it will mean ensuring every dollar is used effectively.

2. In addition to reducing spending, I hope to see our council move toward a more cost-effective consent process for building and renovating, with new and small businesses nurtured and encouraged.

I am a firm advocate of open, clear communication between council and community. There is no place in my personal ethic for private backroom deals and I believe strongly there is no place for it in our council either.

Carrick Jones
Declined invitation to respond.

Scott_Jo[[{Scott Jones (35)
Electrician/ business owner

1. As a company owner for the past 11 years I understand simple business models and understand that you can't keep on borrowing to fulfil everyone's wants.

As a council, we have to make sure we are getting good value for money on all our core services.

The 10-year plan needs reshaped so we only develop community assets as we can afford without burdening future generations with crippling debts.

2. My goals if elected are to be open-minded and approachable to the community; to bring local compliance issues back to a sensible level to encourage progression and development; to try and bring council spending back in line with its income; to look for other non ratepayer-funded methods of income; to finally get Wanaka a sports complex.

Leigh_Ov[[{Leigh Overton (62)
Councillor

1. I have been part of a small working group which has been re-assessing the need to proceed with projects in our 10-year Community Plan. We have re-assessed rates of growth, and studied whether projects are debt funded, can be reduced in scale, can be done differently, or can be deleted.

If re-elected I will be able to continue the process and so add to the suggested savings that are currently at $150 million.

2. My goals are to reduce projected rates and council debt levels as described above.

I want to resolve the site selection for the Wanaka Sports Facilities and to progress planning and facility development at the Wanaka Airport.

Council's priority should be to manage spending and so control rates and debt levels, with the emphasis to spend on necessities. Council should consult the community about the sale of shares in Queenstown Airport.

 

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