Choppy waters ahead for Queenstown Lakes
Queenstown Lakes mayor Glyn Lewers says the council faces penning the “toughest Long Term Plan in its history”, as it struggles with the $800 million blowback of Three Waters.
Lewers, in a wide-ranging conversation with Queenstown’s The Outlet Podcast, says the Coalition Government’s scrapping of plans to centralise water infrastructure investment and ownership could see rates rise an extra 3-5% per year in Queenstown Lakes over the next decade, on top of other expected increases.
“Three Waters are now back in council books,” he says. “I’ve just spent the past two weeks back in the office trying to figure that out with staff, how we can massage that back into our Long Term Plan.
“We as councillors, and myself as mayor, we’re looking at some of these figures and we’re looking pretty hard at them because there’s going to be some very tough decisions and there’s going to be some pretty uncomfortable conversations in the next month.”
Lewers, however, is hopeful that once the Coalition Government has enacted its 100 day plan, discussions over local government revenue streams will gather pace.
“Costs are increasing ... but the revenue side has not kept pace and [we’re] cognizant of the fact that we can’t just keep taking extra rates from the same people, year on year.”
Residents swallowed a 14.2% average increase last year.
Lewers says a visitor levy is still alive, although he’s hearing it would likely be implemented on a national level rather than giving councils the ability to raise their own revenue.
Act’s policies, which include sharing GST with councils to fund infrastructure, would therefore probably help Queenstown Lakes the most “but I don’t know how applicable they are elsewhere in NZ”.
He’s “in the ear” of politicians in Queenstown Lakes and Wellington on the issues, he says.
Lewers also discusses the controversial Project Manawa with Outlet Podcast host Brent Harbour in the 15-minute chat, outlining the issues surrounding building new council offices in Frankton as an alternative, and why the council remaining in its current offices is not an option.
And he talks about councillors’ motivations, and the challenges faced last year, including the Skyline landslip and the rush to install UV filters at Queenstown Lakes’ water treatment plants in the wake of the crypto outbreak.
Listen to the Outlet Podcast online at lwb.co.nz or on the Queenstown App, which you can download for Apple or Android devices.