QLDC seeks comment on revised charges

Public submissions on the revised set of deposits and charges for Lakes Environmental services open tomorrow and hearings will run concurrently with long-term council community plan hearings, on June 4 and 5.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council reviewed its council-controlled regulatory organisation's pricing structure during the full council meeting yesterday.

QLDC regulatory and corporate general manager Roger Taylor said the issue of deposits and charges were "separate but connected".

The amount a consent applicant paid was determined by time multiplied by charge-out rate, he said.

"Lakes Environmental doesn't have an agenda to make a profit but it does need to operate at a break-even level."

Lakes Environmental chief executive Hamish Dobbie said the district plan, the quality of the original application and the level of objection or support were factors in the work involved in processing a consent and the subsequent costs.

Those factors made it difficult to compare costs with other districts.

In Mr Taylor's tabled report, the budgeted 17% decline in resource consents had driven the hourly rate up 15%.

The budgeted 14% decline in building consents had increased the hourly rate by 11%.

The proposed increase in charge-out rates ranged from 1% (engineering, $1 increase) to 29% (health, $18 increase).

Mr Taylor indicated a comparison of proposed charge-out rates for professional staff at Lakes Environmental with counterparts processing similar numbers of consents.

The proposed building charge-out rate of $105 by Lakes Environmental was more than Dunedin City Council's at $95 but less than Christchurch's at $120, Southland's at $123 and that of Wellington at $135.

Cr Vanessa van Uden said Lakes Environmental should find ways to assure residents of its efficiency, but Cr Leigh Overton noted the efficiency gains the organisation had achieved.

Cr Lyal Cocks suggested Lakes Environmental look for more opportunities for sharing capacity with other Otago councils.

Cr Gillian MacLeod said not many organisations could raise fees to cover shortfalls.

Mr Dobbie said not many organisations operated above zero on the balance sheet.

"If building and resource consents continue to fall, we'll see further reductions in staff and much more dramatic reductions in overheads."

Submissions are open until May 31.

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