Resident proposes legal action against QLDC over $75m Lakeview deal
Local resident Dr Ian Moore is proposing legal action against QLDC based on a lack of consultation over the controversial $75 million Lakeview deal. Here's his letter to the Mayor and councillors - followed by the Mayor's reply.
Tuesday, 29th June, 2021 Re: Lakeview development
Dear QLDC, (sent to all councillors and the Mayor)
I write to express my concern over two aspects of the Lakeview development, namely the consultation process, and the cost to ratepayers.
To my knowledge, the only relevant consultation that has taken place was the “informal consultation” on the issue of tenure (26-Oct-2017 Full Meeting agenda, item 4, par 24). Having read the community feedback (Attachment A), I draw the following conclusions:
1. There were only 34 responses (from 33 responders) despite the acknowledged (par 84) high significance of, and high community interest in, the site. The implication is that the informal consultation was insuffucient to provide a representative view of the community.
2. As Council acknowledges (par 3), almost all of the responses included comments on the use of the site, as well as (or instead of) tenure. This implies strong community interest in input to the use of the land. Moreover, several responders commented specifically that the council should consult directly on this.
3. The responses regarding tenure are overwhelmingly against freehold sale, and many are also against long-term lease. Several responders consider (as do I) that the consultation document was inadequate and biassed.
It’s my opinion that, for Council to proceed with its pre-determined intention to sell part of the land, and to ignore the community’s obvious desire for input to the constraints on the use of the land, given the responses to even this minimal attempt at consultation, demonstrates that Council has (or had) an unacceptable lack of regard for the views of the community.
As has been widely reported, the Lakeview project features prominently in the proposed expenditure, especially over the next 3 years, in the current (draft) long term plan (LTP). Feedback on the LTP is highly critical of this expenditure (as well as the way Council is developing the land). The infrastructure budget has risen alarmingly, from $19M in the last LTP to $40M in the draft. Given the anticipated return from the project is both very limited in amount, and uncertain regarding date, it is my opinion that Council took unreasonable risks with ratepayers’ money and assets in approving this project, especially given one of the objectives was to “Maximise financial return in a manner that minimises risk to ratepayers” (par 23).
We currently appear to be in the situation where preparation for the sale of extremely valuable and important Council-owned property is severely limiting funding for projects that are supported by the community. A situation like this should never have arisen.
I am aware that the concerns I express above are shared by other ratepayers, as well as by at least one elected councillor. I strongly believe that Council should pause this project, and review the available options in collaboration with the community.
Should Council continue to spend ratepayers’ money on Lakeview, without involving the community or providing the information necessary to assure the community that the Lakeview project was appropriately approved through adequate consultation and financial risk analysis, then I will support appropriate legal action against the Council to obtain a court determination as to the legitimacy of the Lakeview contract, much as was done regarding the lease to Wanaka airport.
I appreciate that some current councillors were not members of the Council when the current phase (i.e. post convention centre) of the Lakeview project was initiated, and I call on them in particular to investigate the status of this project and to communicate appropriately with the community.
I do not request a direct response to this letter, except to correct any significant factual errors. Rather, I request that Council releases statements and other appropriate information directly to the community.
Ian Moore (Dr)
Here's Mayor Jim Boult's reply (below) Dr Moore also wrote to Crux making the following observation:
(The Mayor's reply.)
Office of the Mayor - QLDC. July 7, 2021.
Dear Mr Moore,
Thank you for your email.
Consultation on the Lakeview development has involved a number of statutory processes including Ten Year Plan consultations, a reserves act process, district plan change (PC50) and the consultation you have referenced regarding land tenure. As you have indicated, component parts of the Lakeview development have evolved, as the Council has responded to changing opportunities, however the broad intent of the Council for Lakeview has remained consistent and public over many years. The processes followed by Council with the community, both informally and formally, have been engaged upon by the public as you have noted, but shouldn’t be judged by the number of participants in any of those.
The Council did not enter into the Lakeview development solely to maximise financial return, rather wanting to achieve the desired development objectives under development agreement framework, mitigating the risk to ratepayers. The benefits to the Council and community were always seen from a broader perspective; namely being the opportunity to support the town centre, and to deliver an integrated urban development form, within walking distance of the town centre. The council also resolved as part of the sale to direct some of the earnings towards the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust (QLCHT) . The Council deliberately chose not to sell the land for the highest possible price, accepting that the cost of development would likely be proportionately higher, in order to support those broader objectives. Notwithstanding this, when both sides of the ledger are considered, the higher level of capital expenditure in the 2021-31 Ten Year Plan than was reflected in the 2018- 28 Ten Year Plan demonstrates that the overall effect on ratepayers is net neutral. This is because there is a correspondingly higher projected income than was the case at the time of consultation on the 2018-28 Ten Year Plan.
Thank you once again for your communication.
Jim Boult ONZM | Mayor |
Queenstown Lakes District Council