Arts boosted by QLDC, but rates up over 5%

by Isobel Ewing - Jun 25, 2021

Changes to the Ten Year Plan following public consultation include funding for an arts and culture hub in Queenstown and a youth and community centre in Wanaka.

Spending on the planned Project Manawa complex, which will see a performing arts centre combined with council buildings, has been pushed out by four years, while a similar facility for Wanaka is nowhere in sight.

The green light has also been given to retrofit the property on Ladies Mile to become a full-use community centre.

Temporary construction work is already underway at 516 Ladies Mile for a new Community Facility

The council received 504 submissions on the Ten Year Plan from across the district, and councillors will now be asked to adopt the final plan at a meeting on June 30.

Project Manawa at the bottom of Stanley Street - delayed by Ngai Tahu Covid issues

The top issue among the submissions was climate response, and QLDC has subsequently added $200,000 to its operational budget to bolster its climate action team.

The big changes do come with a catch - a proposed average annual increase in rates over the ten years of 4.4%.

From July 2021 to June 2022 that’s an average rise of 5.45% across the district.

QLDC proposes to lease the former Mitre 10 building in Wanaka to provide a home for a number of community groups and a base for QLDC sport and recreation programmes.

The proposal is to lease the building for the next decade, requiring $750,000 from council capex budgets, plus $250,000 in grant funding for the fit-out. 

QLDC will work with Three Lakes Cultural Trust to build the arts and culture hub at Remarkables Park, which will be a home for a number of arts and cultural groups within a facility leased for ten years.

Council will cover lease costs of $295,000 plus $52,000 operational spending in the first year, increasing to $461,000 and $100,000 per year ongoing.

QLDC General Manager Community Services Thunes Cloete said “investment in arts and culture was “a theme that came through the submissions process and there was interest in the allocation of a $51 million provision for performing arts facilities.”

QLDC did not specify how much of this “interest” from the public was in support of the spend and how much against.

The $51 million allocated to Project Manawa, which proposes to combine a performance and visual arts centre, town square, library and a single office space for all council staff, has been pushed out to year 8 of the TYP.

Crux understands the delay is related to QLDC’s partnership with Ngai Tahu Property, which is adjusting its capital spending priorities due to Covid.

Three Lakes Cultural trustee Bill Moran "Culture is a key part of economic diversification"

Ngai Tahu Property said it is working with QLDC to progress Project Manawa, and any details around timing needed to be put to the council.

There’s no funding allocated for a similar performing arts facility in Wanaka, with QLDC saying it needs to work out what type of facility might be required in the town before it is included in future planning cycles.

However it said QLDC has “confidence there is a high likelihood that philanthropic funding will be available and envisages that this will support proposals for both towns to proceed.”

Trustee of Three Lakes Cultural Trust, Bill Moran said any increase in investment in the arts from council on a sustainable basis was good.

“From a wellbeing perspective it’s critically valuable to communities to have a range of experiences, particularly those that are cultural,” Moran said.

“Flowing from that, young people get inspired to go into the arts.” Culture is a key part of economic diversification by creating a much greater range of experiences in a district, Moran says.

“It has both community wellbeing benefits, but also economic and financial benefits by making businesses sustainable and creating different types of jobs, you know, broadening out the creative sector.”

QLDC General Manager Finance, Legal and Regulatory Stewart Burns said an increase in the forecast dividend from the Queenstown Airport Corporation from $45.1M to $66.4M was an upside, but that was tempered by QLDC’s need to repay QAC for the Wānaka Airport lease and its fixed assets following the Judicial Review decision that found the lease unlawful.

It’s unclear exactly what the cost to the ratepayer will be of QLDC paying QAC back.

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