Government change would hurt ratepayers

Vanessa Van Uden
Vanessa Van Uden
Queenstown Lakes ratepayers will have to make up the shortfall if Government changes mean the council can no longer levy development contributions for community infrastructure, Mayor Vanessa Van Uden says.

She said the Local Government Amendment (No 3) Bill, introduced to Parliament, proposes to remove a long-standing source of revenue for councils which could result in ''significant'' rates increases in some parts of the district to offset loss of revenue.

The council had assessed the impact of the proposed legislative changes could be an average rates increase of 5.7%.

Under the Bill, councils would no longer be able to levy development contributions for community infrastructure, other than public toilets, playgrounds and community halls, the mayor said. Other forms of community infrastructure, such as libraries, parks and sporting facilities, will have to be funded from alternative sources, primarily rates.

''In a high-growth community like ours, developers have quite reasonably been required to make contributions to offset the financial impact their development has on the district.

''For example, a 250 house subdivision has infrastructure impacts such as new footpaths; increased water and sewerage capacity and increased maintenance of roads.

''But population growth also means we have to invest in additional community infrastructure, such as increased library capacity, new parks, sports fields and other recreational needs.''

The mayor said it made no sense to say the cost of new playgrounds could be funded from development contributions but sports facilities could not.

''The reality is that, while we welcome development and the growth that it generates, existing ratepayers should not have to foot the bill for new costs created by developers,'' she said.

In the past five years, rates have comprised only 55%-60% of the district's total revenue and development contributions have comprised 10%-20% of total revenue.

Ms van Uden said the greatest impact would be on key pieces of community infrastructure, in particular the Queenstown Events Centre (QEC) and the proposed Wanaka sports facility, which were budgeted on the understanding development contributions would form part of the funding, ''but this will not be the case under the proposed changes''.

''As a consequence, ratepayers will have to pay more to continue to enjoy the same services, in the case of QEC, or to have a new facility, in the case of the Wanaka Sports Facility.''

The mayor said the council would be supporting a submission from Local Government NZ against the changes, as well as making its own submission, and encouraged ratepayers to raise concern by submitting to the select committee themselves.

''Our message is simple - if you don't want to pay more as a ratepayer for existing or future community infrastructure, then you need to make your views known.''


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