Group to investigate split from QLDC

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 ratepayers.

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 split.

''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 town.

''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 which projects.

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 separating.

''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 self-governance.

Despite moves nationally to merge councils, he believed small councils were more efficient.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

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