Community has its say at plan hearing

John Hilhorst
John Hilhorst
The Queenstown Lakes District is spiralling into a cost of living crisis and its community is begging councillors to beef up budgets to build world-class mountain-biking assets, investigate new airports and support high density development.

These topics, along with regenerative tourism and climate action initiatives, were among many subjects discussed during the Queenstown Lakes District Council 2022 annual plan hearing via Zoom yesterday afternoon.

When the council put the draft annual plan out for community consultation in April, it indicated rates increases were on the way, but it had a goal to contain them to an average 6%.

The capital expenditure programme for the coming year, is $268 million, more than $71.6 million set out for spending in 2022-23 in the 10-year plan.

The increase is because of council commitments to maintain levels of services, while addressing central Government reforms and reviews of Three Waters, local government and resource management.

The four main topics the council wanted public feedback on included increasing the $257,000 budget for its climate and biodiversity plan to $677,000; funding to defend $40 million worth of weather tightness (leaky housing) claims; $1.8  million to "right-size" staff numbers (disestablish four positions and create 28); and increase a range of user pays fees and charges by $1.85million.

The annual plan drew 130 submissions, forming a 616-page document.

Of those submitters, 41 people each spoke for five minutes to the council yesterday.

Queenstown Lakes Climate Reference Group (CRG) chairwoman Bridget Legnavsky said the group was disappointed the extra funding had been described as a "stretch goal".

Climate actions should be given more weight and climate action funding should be ring-fenced, she said.

"[The council] needs to see investment in climate action now as an opportunity to avoid much greater expenditure in the future," Mrs Legnavsky said.

Flight Plan 2050 spokesman John Hilhorst, of Queenstown, urged the council to set aside climate action funds to investigate redeveloping Queenstown Airport into high density housing and exploring opportunities for a district airport at Tarras.

This would solve the accommodation crisis, increase social wellbeing, enhance council revenues and future proof district air connectivity. Ignoring it was "increasingly unacceptable", Mr Hilhorst said.

Wai Wanaka manager Julie Perry asked for funding for its water quality activities and environmental and education programmes.

Central government’s Jobs for Nature funding ended next year and Wai Wanaka was looking for ways to retain its team and keep things going, she said.

Sustainable Glenorchy spokeswoman Trish Fraser said "Glenorchy has been somewhat left out in the cold" and sought funding for carbon reduction activities in the community, including active travel, regenerative tourism and a cycle trail around Lake Wakatipu.

John Wellington, of Upper Clutha Tracks Trust; Steve Hewland, of the Glenorchy Trails Trust; Bike Wanaka secretary Naomi McGregor; and Queenstown Mountain Bike Club spokeswoman Natalie Sharples were among others who sought support for various cycle, active transport and trails projects.

Mr Boult congratulated all the speakers for their "marathon effort".

The council is scheduled to adopt the final annual plan and budgets on June 30.

 

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