Rate rises to fund public transport opposed

The township of Lake Hāwea faces significant water demand issues if action is not taken. PHOTO:...
The township of Lake Hāwea. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Ratepayers in Lake Hāwea and Wānaka say they should not be picking up the bill for solutions to Queenstown’s traffic "chaos".

At this week’s Otago Regional Council long-term plan hearings in Queenstown, several ratepayers appeared before the hearings to oppose rate increases to help fund the resort town’s burgeoning public transport needs.

Glyn Lewers
Glyn Lewers
The regional council plans to invest almost $194million in Queenstown public transport over the next decade, alongside an additional $67m between 2026-34, upgrading the bus fleet to electric and higher-capacity, starting earlier and finishing later and setting a 10-year timetable target of a bus every 15 minutes.

But many submitters expressed their concern about the ratepayers in the wider district being asked to pay for the Queenstown-focused proposal.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Glyn Lewers said the Queenstown Lakes District Council opposed the regional council’s targeted rate for public transport in the district because areas such as Wānaka and Hāwea did not receive any benefit from it.

"The [proposal’s] rates impact would be about $124 for upper Clutha residents for a service they would have to drive all the way to Queenstown to receive any benefit."

The district council "strongly recommended" the regional council’s public transport rates be applied in Hāwea, Wānaka and Luggate only when public transport became available in those townships, Mr Lewers said.

In order for this to happen, the regional council needed to invest "over and above" in public transport than what it had proposed, Mr Lewers said.

"The sooner it happens, the better - the appetite for public transport in upper Clutha is strong.

"But the scope of the rate shouldn’t happen until they can access that service."

He said he supported plans for more public transport, but it needed to focus on the whole district, which had grown about 8% in the past year.

This growth had outpaced infrastructure, he said.

Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board chairman Simon Telfer said the board did not support the targeted rate portion of transport rates being applied on a district-wide basis and recommended that such a rate be deferred for the upper Clutha until it actually had public transport.

"We believe in keeping our powder dry until that happens."

He urged the regional council to push ahead with public transport in the upper Clutha in the third or fourth year of its 10-year plan.

"We don’t want to run another trial [in upper Clutha] and get the same results."

Lake Hāwea ratepayer Patricia Doherty’s submission said they got "stung enough" for Queenstown.

"If Queenstown wants all the chaos, let them pay for it themselves ... Do not put anything on my rates for that area.

Ratepayer Deborah Richards said it was "ridiculous" people in Wānaka, Hāwea and Albert Town would be subsidising transport for Queenstown.

She said the regional council should charge the people of Queenstown more or introduce a higher fee for non-residents.