QLDC Annual Plan submissions: Financial help sought for new community hub [ODT, 29/05/20]

The $3.8million Wanaka Community Hub building, which opened seven months ago is in financial strife.

The hub houses community and government organisations and is a venue for exhibitions.

Hub chairwoman Yeverley McCarthy was one of those seeking Queenstown Lakes District Council financial help at yesterday’s annual plan hearing.

Ms McCarthy told councillors the hub had debts of $1million and loans were coming due.

“We are in trouble.”

One of the problems had been the liquidation of the building’s major contractor, Arrow International, during construction, causing “unanticipated expenditure” of about $250,000.

While bookings for the building had exceeded expectations initially, and “it appeared that all financial targets would be met”, the Covid-19 lockdown, which closed the hub in March, had “changed those expectations”.

Ms McCarthy referred to a December 19 meeting where, she said, Mayor Jim Boult agreed the council “should make a substantial grant” to the hub.

She believed services provided at the hub helped soften the impact of distress and disruption in the community.

The hub is hoping for a profit of about $250,000 from the sale of a house.

About a dozen organisations gave verbal submissions at the hearing in support of funding applications, including one of the hub’s tenants, the Alpine Community Development Trust, the umbrella organisation for Community Networks and Link Upper Clutha.

The council pays the organisations’ $33,500 annual rent, but the trust is seeking an additional $103,000 to cover welfare-related costs, including extra staff, during the Covid-19 recovery.

Wanaka Community Board chairman Barry Bruce called for an increase in the board’s minor improvements budget from about $1.4million to $5million and some “fast-track” planning to enable projects to go ahead, such as improvements to the intersection at Golf Course and Ballantyne Rds, and free parking for CBD workers and business owners.

Upper Clutha Tracks Trust treasurer John Wellington outlined plans to extend the Hawea track from the swing bridge across the Hawea River to Albert Town and sought a $50,000 contribution from the council, in addition to its annual $40,000 administration grant.

Mr Boult said the council might be able to assist through its scheme to redeploy tourism workers.

Protect Wanaka member Mark Sinclair was one of the few submitters not seeking council funding, but instead requesting more clarity around the future of the Project Pure wastewater treatment plant, near the end of the Wanaka Airport runway.

He noted the annual plan earmarked $6million of spending for the plant and was concerned the council might be expected to shift it to make way for airport development.

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