Ratepayers face cost Sports centre’s extra $5m could go on rates
Wanaka’s $16 million sports centre could have a budget shortfall of about $5m if a law change kicks in, leaving ratepayers to pick up the unexpected deficit. The sports centre, first proposed in 2008, provided newly elected Queenstown Lakes District Council members with plenty to get their heads around in their first meeting. The site of the sports centre, which will include a swimming pool, indoor sports halls, football fields and artificial turf courts and possibly club rooms, will be within the North Three Parks development. A recommendation was passed authorising the council’s chief executive officer Adam Feeley to push ahead on negotiations with Willowridge developer Allan Dippie to secure land access and title, and all other terms needed to achieve a June 2016 completion
date for the sports centre. There was hot debate around the council table on many aspects of negotiation. Two ex-councillors, Aaron Heath and Jude Battson, through the public forum section of the meeting, also had plenty to say on the matter. Mr Heath said other sites needed to be considered before the North Three Parks site was locked in. Mrs Battson said the sports centre was an essential addition to Wanaka’s future and the North Three Parks site would be a massive area of future development. ‘‘The council shouldn’t get bogged down by the price or finances, or dumb down the design,’’ she said. However, the biggest surprise came courtesy of the council’s chief financial officer Stewart Burns, who revealed the possible $5m shortfall. The cause was a possible amendment by the Local Government Authority, which sets the boundaries for district and city councils, which would mean development contributions could not be used to fund projects such as the sports complex. Development contributions are funds paid by large-scale developers to contribute to council infrastructure needed to make developments habitable – water supply and sewerage especially. ‘‘Development contributions could be amended under the LGA act, the most pertinent of those is that the scope of development contributions could be narrowed, and would not be an option for funding this project.’’ Current funding options include applying to community grant agencies for about 15 per cent of the overall budget. Mr Burns said that if using development contributions was out, it was probable that using loaned money, and distributing the cost of that loan among future generations of ratepayers might be the most viable option to cover the shortfall.