15% average rates rise unavoidable, council says

Queenstown Lakes District ratepayers are looking at an average rates rise of more than 15%, which the council says is unavoidable.

The council said in a statement yesterday it would be asked to consider and approve the long-term plan 2024-34 consultation document at a meeting on Thursday.

The draft plan and consultation document identifies the key challenges facing the Queenstown Lakes District and proposes how they will be addressed through a work plan for the next 10 years.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers said the draft plan had been developed within an incredibly challenging context.

"As we look ahead to the next 10 years, affordability is top of mind for everyone. We’ve been hit by so many external factors outside of our control. Things like inflation, high interest rates and government compliance costs are being felt by the whole local government sector and worldwide."

"Everything we do is costing more to deliver, making this one of the most difficult budgets to prepare for the district. In short, it simply will not be possible to deliver many of the things the community or this council want to within the existing significant financial constraints", he said.

He said the focus for the council and staff was to get the basics right first, prioritising a solid foundation of infrastructure, community facilities, and consistent levels of service.

"This is particularly relevant for the first two years of the LTP, which largely focuses on core compliance activities", he said.

"The draft plan proposes an average rates increase of 15.6% for 2024-25, which is historically high but unavoidable as we are required to balance our budget."

QLDC assurance, finance and risk general manager Stewart Burns said such a high increase was not something that was proposed lightly and the council was very aware of the extra pressure it placed on ratepayers.

"It’s a challenge councils and communities right across the country are facing and the fact remains that currently, rates contribute over half of our income", Mr Burns said.

"While there are a few other levers we can pull, such as user fees and charges, development contributions or investment dividends, the way the current system is set up means that we rely on rates to fund a large chunk of our work. We have also reduced capital expenditure to include only "must do" projects in the first three years of the draft LTP to reduce the impact on rates.

"Rates increases like this are not equitable or sustainable and we’re committed to advocating for alternative funding tools because it is a priority to reduce the rates burden on our ratepayers."

Highlighted consultation topics include bringing forward investment in community facilities such as new sports fields for Wānaka, clean energy upgrades for the district’s swimming pools, new sports fields and facilities at 516 Ladies Mile, along with a proposed targeted rate to recover costs of Queenstown Town Centre upgrade projects.

Consultation starts on Friday and goes through to July 28.