The Wānaka App
The Wānaka App
It's Your Place
The Wānaka App

Who holds Wānaka’s purse strings: Board seeks control over asset fund

The Wānaka App

Sue Wards

17 April 2024, 5:00 PM

Who holds Wānaka’s purse strings: Board seeks control over asset fund The Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board (pictured with mayor Glyn Lewers) says its control of the asset fund would be “an opportunity for the community”. PHOTO: Wānaka App

The Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB) is pushing for control over an asset fund worth more than $3.4M which is earmarked for the Upper Clutha. 

The Wānaka Asset Sale Reserve Fund was established when $15.6M was raised by the sale of Scurr Heights land owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) in 2016.

The fund was to be used to fund capital expenditure which “benefits the residents of the Wānaka ward”. 

The fund now sits at around $3.4M (although some imminent land sales may bolster that figure).

Control of the asset fund is one of the few items planned to be discussed at today’s WUCCB meeting in Lake Hāwea (Thursday April 18).

Wānaka’s swimming pool was part funded by the asset fund. PHOTO: Wānaka App

The only agenda item is a report from board chair Simon Telfer, which says the board “is continuing to advocate for greater empowerment over the Wānaka Asset Sales Reserve Fund”. 

“While the reserve's purpose will stay the same we would like the spending/investment of the funds to be delegated to the board and for it to allow greater partnership with local community groups for delivery,” Simon said.

QLDC guidelines say the fund may be used for projects which increase the level of service for the Wānaka ward (excluding services required because of growth, otherwise funded from development contributions and depreciation) and may include repayment of debt on projects which have increased the level of service for the ward.

The fund contributed $2.4M to Paetara/Aspiring Central. PHOTO: Quentin Smith

The funds may not be used for operating expenditure or to purchase assets which are primarily acquired for speculative purposes.

Simon said the board was looking at potential control of the fund as “an opportunity from community, for community, by community, with community”.

He said QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen has confirmed the issue will be discussed further in May.


Since 2016, $6M of the fund has been put toward the Wānaka Recreation Centre swimming pool, $4M contribution to the purchase of Mt Iron (from an approximate purchase price of $8M), and $2.4M towards the new Paetara/Aspiring Central Youth Centre (including a $1M loan being repaid over ten years).

More controversially, $1M was put towards Luggate’s new hall, Whare Mahana, to cover a project shortfall; and $500,000 was granted to the Wānaka Community Hub.

When the fund was established, QLDC councillor Lyal Cocks joked that “Queenstown people can keep their sticky mitts off it”. By 2020, he had raised concerns that QLDC staff wanted to allocate $1M of the fund to the Luggate hall build, saying “this fund was never intended to become a slush fund to cover budget shortfalls”.

During that discussion then-councillor Quentin Smith said the board needed to ensure the remainder of the fund would be spent “incredibly wisely.”

Then-community board member Jude Battson said the remaining money in the fund should be spent on “something that will be around forever”, suggesting an arts centre as an appropriate project. Quentin said the money could also be used if the council had to purchase land at Sticky Forest.

In 2022 QLDC controversially recommended a $500,000 loan to the Wānaka Community House Charitable Trust (now known as the Wānaka Community Hub - a group neither owned nor operated by the council) be converted to a grant from the asset fund to help resolve the group’s financial challenges. The board was split on the appropriateness of the grant, but it was eventually approved.

Read more: