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Rates, that perennial favourite

Updated: Apr 15



People gathered outside around a picnic table

Here’s some of the team that have worked to restore Tucker Beach reserve - a ‘waste land’ behind the closed dump just a few kilometres from downtown Queenstown.  This was one of many projects made possible by Jobs for Nature funding.  It was powered by AJ Hackett Bungy’s GSD Workforce who got behind the tiny community group Friends of Tucker Beach Wildlife Reserve to work with DOC and deliver pest control and habitat restoration to support the breeding grounds of endangered birds such as dotterels and black-fronted terns. Powerhouse environmentalist Dawn Palmer directed the project while staunch kaiwhakahaere Rose Barnett kept it front and centre. This project, like so many others has zero funds to continue its work. It's also part of a much bigger, landscape scale vision that brings together some 80+ such groups around an ambitious vision for a pest free sanctuary, the Southern Lakes Sanctuary. Our Regional Council supports such groups and their vision with supporting science, advice and the small amount of funds that can be distributed from our rates collection.

This brings me to our Long Term Plan, now out for consultation until April 28.  While as a councillor I acknowledge we can’t match the funds Jobs 4 Nature provided over the COVID years, we should at least have a go at maintaining the work and at providing something to show our support. Funds from ORC can act as a leveraging base as such organisations go looking for the next pot of gold.

Noone likes to see rates go up, and they are only going up.  Have a listen to this to really understand why.   Basically, there’s work that needs doing.  Work mandated by central government without matching funds, and that which we just want done please. However, I'm not sure Queenstown Lakes District ratepayers really want to pay more than their fair share. See my addendum immediately below about the percentage more that QLD ratepayers are being asked for and also my piece further below about Upper Clutha and more rural Lakes District people being asked to pay just as much as Queenstown people for the Queenstown public transport system.


ADDENDUM 15 April

Ratepayers of the Queenstown Lakes District may be surprised and annoyed to discover that the percentage of rates they will pay under the current proposals compared to those to be paid by their Dunedin counterparts has risen considerably. This table from Remarkables Park highlights the issue.


This is a direct result of a new rating strategy and your thoughts are welcome.

Two (other) things I really want to draw your attention to.

1.      Large-scale environmental funding. This is Proposal 1 in the consultation document: Investing in our environment.

4 options are put forward. 

-          Contribute approx $3 each per year to provide $500k dedicated funding. 

-          Contribute approx $6 each per year to provide $1m dedicated funding.

-          Contribute approx $12 each per year to provide $2m dedicated funding.

-          Do nothing.

The ‘preferred option’ is the first one. My preferred option is the 3rd one. $12 per year to deliver $2m to be spent on large-scale projects. Such a small amount of money to do so much. Please do let us know your thoughts.  You can do this online at https://www.orc.govt.nz/plans-policies-reports/corporate-plans-and-reports/long-term-plan-ltp-2024-2034.

2.      Public transport funding. There’s a bit to think about here.  Our rates consultation document suggests a uniform general rate right across the Lakes District which would result in all QLD residents paying the same amount for Queenstown’s public transport system whether or not they can individually access it from their own homes. Why would Wānaka, Glenorchy, Kingston, Albert Town, Hawea and Luggate want to pay an equal amount towards a bus service that isn’t always useful or available to them? This is particularly galling when all of these areas would love their own bus service.  If you agree this is unfair, you know what to do.

Before abusing the council, it’s worth a brief consideration of the principles that led to this proposal.

o We agreed as a council that the benefits of Public Transport extend beyond the network boundaries that are served by the service. For example; keeping Queenstown moving has benefits for the entire district and we know through modelling that Queenstown will come to a standstill without effective PT.

o    PT plays a huge role in reducing emissions, which benefits everyone.

o    Those in the wider district regularly visit Queenstown and we need them to be using PT. (This principle is being discussed for the Dunedin service also).

The upshot? The consultation document is designed for discussion and we welcome feedback. If people agree with the principle of benefit extending beyond network boundaries, they may suggest that a lesser amount be contributed by those areas, or they may oppose the suggestion entirely, or they might have a better idea.  We want to hear these through the many feedback channels available - easiest online, or attend one of the consultation sessions or visit me at Frankton Market tomorrow (Sat 13 April) or next week (Sat 20 April) between 9-11 am.


Also in terms of Public Transport, I would also very much like to hear about what people think about financing it with a uniform charge. This means everyone in this district pays the same targeted and general rate of $136 in the first year, that is the household in Makarora and the large hotel in Queenstown will all pay the same.  There are other ways of doing this (these are not presented in the consultation document, but could be considered) such as charging based on capital value or land value meaning the higher-value properties would pay more reflecting the value the PT service offers to tourists for example.


There are many other funding decisions to be made and many are being consulted on.  I have simply highlighted the two that I think are most relevant to Queenstown Lakes District Residents. I look forward to hearing your thoughts or seeing you at a session near you.


And a highlight: Paris is doing it! Becoming a cycling city. Who would have thunk it? https://momentummag.com/paris-puts-people-and-bicycles-at-the-heart-of-ambitious-new-climate-plan/

 

What I’m listening to:

 

What I’m reading

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