Q and A: QLDC Mayor Jim

 

In the wake of moves to remove the Wānaka Community Board, and a petition to remove Wānaka from the Queenstown Lakes District Council, Mayor Jim Boult sought an interview with the Sun. He declined to be interviewed by Viv Milsom. Instead, he agreed to answer a set of written questions. Here is what he had to tell Wānaka Sun readers.

Q: You voted in favour of all three Wānaka QLDC Councillors remaining on the WCB – despite the strong community feedback and the Representation Review proposal both recommending that the number be reduced to just one Councillor. Can you tell us please why you supported this motion? Looking to the future – when there are four Wānaka QLDC Councillors would it make more sense to have two of them on the WCB, rather than three? Why? Why not?

A: This was presented as the preferred outcome by the whole of the Board, and accordingly the Council supported their request. The recent decision to appoint three councillors to the Board is effective from October 2022 when there will be four Wānaka-Upper Clutha Ward Councillors. The make-up of the Board beyond this can only be amended through a representation review so how many councillors are appointed in the future will be a matter for any future representation review process (which must happen within six years of this latest review). 

Q: WCB recently asked for its Minor Improvements Budget (MIB) to be increased from $1.4 million to $5 million. QLDC has agreed to an increase to $2million. Given the rapid growth in population in Wānaka, why did you not agree to the request for $5million? Would you support a policy whereby the MIB was tagged to the rate take from Wānaka and increased accordingly? Please explain your answer. Would you support the Wānaka Reserves Land Sales Fund being administered in the future by WCB? Please explain your answer. Would you support WCB receiving an executive summary of how much QLDC income is being generated in Wānaka / Upper Clutha and how it is being applied? Please explain your answer. 

A: We’ll need a bit more time to answer your specific points here. However, in general revenue and reinvestment is in line with the QLDC Revenue and Funding Policy where some things are funded district wide, others are a straightforward reinvestment of rates within a ward, etc.

This balance between different wards is reflected in our current Ten Year Plan investment. The net community-funded capex split is actually 30/70 (Wānaka/Queenstown) which is in line with the split between the district’s capital value and the projected average day population. In fact, for the first five years the net capex split is 36/64, thereby favouring Wānaka over Queenstown.

It is a common narrative I hear that Council isn’t investing fairly in Wānaka and its surrounds, and how Wānaka is subsidising investment in Queenstown. That is simply not correct. The numbers clearly demonstrate investment across the district is proportionate and revenue is invested where it is collected. Revenue from Wānaka is invested in the Wānaka Ward.

Q: Are there any QLDC plans to increase the staffing levels in Wānaka? Would you support more of the 450 – 500 QLDC staff being based in Wānaka? Please explain your answer.

A: Council employs around 75 FTE (full-time equivalent) staff in Wānaka, not 12 as reported in last week’s Wānaka Sun. This runs across the building services, planning, regulatory, parks, property and infrastructure, sport and recreation, customer services and libraries teams. Moreover, these figures do not reflect Council’s flexible working practices which enable Queenstown-based staff to travel regularly over the Crown Range to support their teams, and vice versa.

It’s also interesting to note that approximately 21% of all Council employees call the Upper Clutha home. This compares to 74% residing in the Whakatipu Basin and 5% elsewhere (e.g. Cromwell).


 

Q: There is a workshop between WCB and QLDC coming up on 28 September to review the Governance  Protocol Statement (GPS) and identify future initiatives for WCB. Can you tell us please what changes you envisage in the GPS? Please explain your answer.

A: The workshop on 28 September is for staff to explore further what the Board is seeking from an update to the GPS, delegations etc. I remain open-minded and welcome greater detail from the Board after the workshop.


 

Q: A petition calling for Wānaka to split from the QLDC has gained some traction – what is your view of this and what is your message to the Wānaka community?

A: We have previously stated that we won’t be commenting on the merits of Mr Rankin’s petition, but note that this is a matter for the Local Government Commission to explore through its independent, objective process. There are many steps in a process like this which I believe will likely look into levels of investment in the ward and how it is represented. 

The only point I would make, and have already said, is that a council has a base cost to operate. Clearly, as a result that would place an additional financial burden on Upper Clutha ratepayers. Compared to most councils, QLDC already has a relatively small general rate and a larger number of targeted rates (some ward and scheme based) which means that what is being spent reflects what the community is prepared to fund.

I would also reiterate to people living in and around Wānaka that I and all my fellow councillors remain absolutely committed to the wellbeing of, and investment in, the Upper Clutha: its environment, economy and diverse communities. 

Q: Finishing on a general note – Do you support the Government’s Three waters reform and what are your views on it? How could it impact on Wānaka?

I support the intent which is to protect clean, potable water and our environment. However, I am gravely concerned at the model proposed. Along with other mayors I have asked the government to slow the reform process to allow us to investigate the effects of the proposed structure and to enable our communities to have their say. Many call for a local referendum on the matter. If there is to be a referendum it should be a national one; there would be little to be gained from every council in NZ holding its own. Referendums require a yes/no answer. I’m not sure we have enough information to even decide the questions to be asked at present.

I would also refer your readers to my recent video on this matter, and the letter/media release from Otago and Southland mayors to the minister. You can find all this information on the QLDC website: https://www.qldc.govt.nz/your-council/major-projects/three-waters-reform 


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