Council fight over development levies

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2014

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The Queenstown Lakes District Council is gearing up to make a stand on a local government law change and will take the fight to Parliament.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Vanessa Van Uden and council chief executive officer Adam Feeley are likely to make the trip to Wellington's parliamentary select committee once the council approves the stand.

The action is over development contributions - levies paid to the council when large building developments require council infrastructure, such as roading and water and sewerage.

In recent years, the council's revenue from such levies has been about $4 million to $7m a year.

Mr Feeley signalled the substantial income stream could be at risk in a meeting about the $16m Wanaka Sports Facility late last year. Yesterday, in the year's first meeting of the council, he laid out his action plan.

"It is proposed that, with council approval QLDC will make its own submission to the parliamentary select committee opposing the proposed changes to development contributions," his report says.

Ms van Uden laid out the negative knock-on effects of the proposed changes to ratepayers.

"The Local Government Amendment Bill which has just been introduced to Parliament proposes to remove a long-standing source of revenue for councils. This could result in significant rates increases for some parts of the district to offset loss of revenue."

Under the bill, local councils will no longer be able to levy development contributions for community infrastructure, other than public toilets, playgrounds, and community halls.

Any infrastructure outside that narrow scope, such as parks and sporting facilities would have to be funded from rates.

As a high-growth district which already had the $16m Wanaka Sports Facility budgeted for by using development contributions, the change would only result in higher rates, Ms van Uden said.

"In a high-growth community like ours, developers have quite reasonably been required to make contributions to offset the financial impact their development has on the district. Population growth also means we have to invest in additional community infrastructure such as . . . library capacity, new parks, sports fields and other recreational needs."

Queenstown Lakes District coffers were primarily rates-funded to 55 to 60 per cent, but topped up by Queenstown Airport Corporation dividends and development contributions accounting for 10 to 20 per cent of yearly income in the past five years.

The changes could result in an average rates increase of 5.7 per cent - and Ms van Uden urged ratepayers to have their say to the select committee themselves.

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"Our message is simple - if you don't want to pay more as a ratepayer for existing or future community infrastructure, then you need to make your views known."

- The Southland Times

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