The Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) adopted both its 2023-24 annual plan and Queenstown Airport’s statement of intent at a council meeting last week.
The annual plan will impose a 14.2% increase on annual rates and higher fees for council services such as resource and building consents, waste services, community facilities and parking.
Councillor Niki Gladding was the only representative to vote against adoption of both the annual plan and the airport’s statement of intent.
Regarding the annual plan, Cr Gladding said it was not good enough to be deliberating on such a complex financial document with no ‘‘line-by-line analysis’’ the day before its deadline for adoption.
‘‘[I’m] concerned we haven’t pulled apart where the costs lie,’’ she said.
‘‘I would like to completely change the way we report this stuff . . .so that it’s crystal clear where things lie . . .At the moment it’s hidden.
‘‘Staff don’t know the process, councillors don’t get on to it early enough, so we end up a day before it has to be agreed, sitting here really not knowing that we’ve done all we can to reduce a 14% rates rise. Four hours of deliberation and that’s it.’’
Council deputy chief executive and general manager of finance Stewart Burns said councillors had taken part in workshops on the annual plan throughout the year and there were ‘‘thousands and thousands of lines’’ to go over.
‘‘We have a statutory obligation to adopt before the 30th of June. If we don’t do that we breach it and that would put the rate settings back, in terms of collecting rates next year.’’
The Queenstown Airport statement of intent (SOI) covers a three-year period from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2026.
With 75.1% ownership, QLDC is the majority shareholder of the Queenstown Airport Corporation, and the statement is a statutory document required to set out the company’s purpose, objectives and activities for the airport.
Cr Gladding raised concerns that the council’s relationship with the airport was too close and that by adopting the statement of intent, the council was ‘‘tacitly endorsing’’ the airport’s 10-year draft master plan that was still in its consultation phase.
‘‘It’s often put to us that we need to have a good relationship with the airport. . .a lot of our development relationships, we make sure they are good and strong . . .but the relationship shouldn’t be the end goal.
‘‘And this is what concerns me with the way we’re operating at the moment, dealing with commercial space, legal development agreements and statutory documents and the words matter.
‘‘[Our] relationship with the airport has improved markedly but [we have that relationship] so we can have the difficult discussions. We shouldn’t avoid the difficult discussions so we can have a good relationship and that’s the point I think we’ve got to.
‘‘Wording in the SOI has us agreeing to the strategic plan. . .that plan delivers growth and delivers carbon emissions. I can’t sit here and approve a document that tacitly approves the strategic plan.’’