QLDC pushes back long term plan to figure out three waters

by Kim Bowden - Feb 16, 2024

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has given itself an extra three months to deliver its core planning document for the decade ahead.

At a meeting yesterday, councillors unanimously agreed to defer adoption of the next Long Term Plan to allow staff additional time to rejig budgets in response to a change in national direction on the delivery of three waters services.

The plan is developed on a three-year cycle, and it outlines all activities and services the council will provide, and how it will pay for them, over the following 10 years.

While the document was set to be approved by the end of June, this will now happen by the end of September.

At yesterday's meeting corporate services general manager Meaghan Miller told councillors, despite a last-minute indication from the government the planning document could be deferred until next year, council staff were confident the three-month deferral would be enough to get the job done.

She said members of the community would now be invited to submit on a draft of the plan between June 28 and July 29, while feedback on grants and council fees and charges would be sought as usual in April.

"I mention grants as I know that is one your community will be deeply interested in. I just wanted to reassure the community the dates of those two processes would go ahead at the normal time."

While the decision was largely a procedural one, some councillors took the opportunity to raise concerns about the Long Term Plan process and looming rates rises in general with staff.

Deputy mayor Quentin Smith said in seven years on the council this is "the most difficult financial position I've seen by a long shot".

He said the current council has been thrown "a number of financial curve balls", referencing leaky building claims, the promise of three waters going away, then the promise of three waters coming back, and cost escalations across sectors.

"We are facing a decade of potentially eye-watering rates increases and costs associated with three waters."

Meanwhile councillor Lyal Cocks was more pragmatic about three waters costs, reminding those around the table the money for upgrades always had to come from somewhere.

"It was just a matter of who was going to be billing you for it."

Councillor Niki Gladding acknowledged costs within the next 10-year planning document could be confronting for ratepayers, urging staff to consider this as they work on a consultation document.

"We're up against it and rates are going to be going up...I hope we can put some real options in there for the community so they can actually have a meaningful say on what they might want and what they might not want."

She said she would like to see projects like the proposed second and third stages of the arterial road to bypass the Queenstown CBD specifically listed in the consultation document to canvass the community's appetite for funding them.

The council is one of a number around the country that has opted to defer its long term plan.

Main image (File photo): Councillors meet at the Queenstown Lakes District Council chambers on Gorge Road.

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