QLDC Targets Lower Average Rates Increase
At the request of the Queenstown Lakes District Mayor and Councillors, Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) officers are aiming to significantly reduce 2020-2021 Annual Plan rates increases to approximately 1.8% in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
QLDC General Manager Finance, Legal & Regulatory Stewart Burns confirmed that although the draft 2020-2021 Annual Plan and accompanying Consultation Document signalled an average rates increase of 6.76%, the challenging economic situation within the district and wider Aotearoa New Zealand has prompted Council to request that officers look at alternative budget scenarios.
Council is also working on options to help those in financial difficulty make it through this stressful time.
The draft 2020-2021 Annual Plan and Consultation Document was approved to be published for community consultation by the Full Council at its meeting on Thursday 12 March.
“Limiting the rates will not be an easy task as we are faced with a large reduction in tourism-related revenues. We are also aware that it is important to continue to invest in our significant capital programme as a vital stimulus for our local economy,” Mr Burns said.
“Furthermore, QLDC has significant revenue budgets that can be directly and indirectly linked to tourism activity such as the dividend from Queenstown Airport Corporation, turnover-based concessions and rental income from assets like campgrounds and wharves. Fewer people visiting, and reduced activity by locals also means reduced revenue from sport and recreation facilities, venues and services such as carparking.”
“A revised budget would see all of these revenue streams reduced significantly, which means we need to find equally significant savings or additional funding. However, we are committed to finding an appropriate balance in the next few weeks with an aim of achieving a rates increase more aligned with the current rate of inflation.”
The Annual Plan process is defined by the Local Government Act 2002. Councils are required to set new rates with effect from 1 July which means it is not possible to discard the current draft plan and Consultation Document to repeat the process.
However, given the nationwide Alert Level 4 lockdown, QLDC is providing additional channels for making submissions on the draft plan.
With the submission period closing at 5.00pm, Friday 17 April, submitters can have their say by visiting letstalk.qldc.govt.nz or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (with a subject line of 2020-2021 Annual Plan submission).
“Any extension to the lockdown period is likely to make it difficult for us to review a high number of postal submissions in time for the hearings, so we’re asking people to default to online or email if possible,” QLDC Governance, Engagement & Communications Manager Naell Crosby-Roe said.
“Alternatively, and specifically for those who don’t have internet access, we are enabling people to make telephone submissions by calling the QLDC Customer Services team on 03 441 0499. The team will talk you through the online form to record your submission, and where required, your request for community grant funding.”
“Hearings for the Annual Plan are currently scheduled for 28 and 29 May, and we expect to keep to this timetable. With the possibility of the lockdown period being extended to affect these dates, we are already looking at options for how submitters who wish to participate can do so remotely,” Mr Crosby-Roe added.
Councillors will consider the proposed lower average rates increase as part of their deliberations shortly after the hearings, with the final 2020-2021 Annual Plan proposed for adoption at the Full Council meeting on Thursday 25 June.
In light of the current and foreseeable challenging economic conditions, QLDC is responding to how this may be affecting many local households by providing different payment options for the upcoming fourth-quarter rates payment.
“As previously stated, we aren’t able to waive rates instalments because they are funding essential community services and infrastructure projects,” Mr Burns said.
“What we can offer is an extended timeframe for payment which will make life a little easier for those who need it.”
The existing 29 May deadline for the next rates instalment will be extended until 31 July 2020, which means that no late payment penalties will apply if rates are paid in full by 31 July. Additional information regarding this extension will be included with the next rates invoice due out late April.
“We encourage any ratepayers who are facing difficulty paying their rates by the extended due date to contact us directly to discuss payment plans,” Mr Burns said.