"Shovel Ready" - the danger of spending $1 billion on things we don't want or need

by Peter Newport - Apr 12, 2020


The buzz phrase “shovel ready” is doing the rounds in Government and Council circles. It means that most of the paperwork is in place and with a bit of a push some big projects could soon be providing construction work that will help get our economy back on track.

It sounds wonderful. But what are these projects, and are they the right ones? For a start they all have cute, innocent sounding names like Project Pure (new sewage works for Wanaka airport) Queenstown’s Arterial Route Masterplan (a big road bypass that will knock down the Memorial Centre and build a flash new Council HQ) and Project Pathway (a big new terminal building and car park for Queenstown Airport).

How About Project New Hospital? Or Project Electric Buses? Or Project New Bike Trails? Project Innovative New Businesses? Or even Project Worker Housing or Project Migrant Welfare Fund?

Of course, the QLDC will want them to have much less obvious names – but you get the idea.

The bottom line is that the council’s carefully constructed Annual Plans and District Plans are now largely not worth the paper they are written on. They were all written for relentless growth. They have cost many, many tens of millions of dollars on consultants, pretty graphics, Resource Management lawyers and hundreds of poorly attended and executed “public consultation and engagement” surveys and town hall workshops.

But, those plans don’t really apply to the post Covid-19 world. Should QLDC even be spending $1 billion over the next 10 years on Project Daffodil and Project Baby’s Cradle – with the attendant rate rises and management salaries? Or should they, like all businesses, be cutting back to basics, cutting costs and facing up to the new reality?

So, please don’t be seduced by Shovel Ready. And please don’t take seriously developer Alastair Porter’s cheeky plea for taxpayer dollars to get his shovel ready gondola and convention centre built. Let’s figure out from scratch what we actually need as a community and how to get it built quickly. A proper hospital and maternity unit would be a great start. The SDHB and MOH aren’t’ going to build one so let’s build it ourselves and chuck the rule book out of the window.

Councillors – we are depending on you.

Main Image: QLDC CEO Mike Theelen and Mayor Jim Boult savouring the $300 million Town Centre Masterplan. Image Credit: Dasha Kuprienko/Stuff.


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