Queenstown Lakes District Council is laying out a gold-plated welcome mat for its next chief executive.
New council boss Adam Feeley (right) – the outgoing head of Serious Fraud Office – starts work on October 23 with a $305,000 annual salary package.
That’s $55,000 – or 22 per cent – more than his predecessor Debra Lawson, who finished up in late June.
Mayor Vanessa van Uden, who confirmed Feeley’s new salary package yesterday, agrees it sounds like a lot of money.
“$305,000 is a lot of money to me, too, and it didn’t get given lightly.
“But I think that people will hopefully see it the same way in terms of, we have got someone worth $305,000 and we will expect him to perform to the level of $305,000.”
Van Uden says two factors influenced councillors to increase the rate: “The quantum of the person we were getting, the experience and the skills – and where the market had moved to, unfortunately.
“We were going to have to pay more than we were paying to get the calibre of person that we expected to be able to do the job for this community.
“To be honest, the market has actually moved quite considerably and we were stuck with that, regardless of whether we agree with it or not.”
Asked if Feeley asked for that higher rate, Van Uden responds: “It was a negotiation, basically, but we were reasonably philosophical around the table that we were going to have to pay more to get what we wanted.”
The mayor says Feeley’s $305,000 is his total salary package – whether he wants to include a vehicle or not is up to him.
Van Uden also confirms he’s on a five-year contract, compared to two-and-half years for his predecessor, with annual performance reviews.
Feeley’s package means Queenstown Lakes ratepayers will pay more for their top bureaucrat than most small cities in New Zealand.
Compared with figures till the end of the 2011 financial year, Invercargill and Whangarei’s chief executive salary packages are $40,000 less, Hastings’ $28,000 less, Nelson’s $16,000 less, and that for neighbouring Central Otago District is about $100,000 less.
Van Uden says Queenstown’s council can’t be compared with others of similar size.
“While you look at the number of people who live here, you’ve got to add on to that the number of [visitors] we’re catering for on a daily basis, and the demand for land and all other Resource Management Act stuff that comes with that, and the general buzz that is us.”
Meanwhile, Van Uden says acting chief executive and finance manager Stewart Burns is being paid “a bit more’ while holding the fort between Lawson and Feeley.
“I think that’s only fair – he’s doing his job, the chief executive’s and until last week he was looking after engineering.”
Asked his reaction, former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper – who also had a stint as Local Government Minister – says: “I picked, the day I heard that the new person had been appointed, that he would probably have taken a drop of his central government salary.
“He wants the job, they wanted him. It’s probably a good purchase, providing he finds a way to exit some of the over-burdensome cost on ratepayers of a staff level that should have come down.”
Cooper’s not concerned about Feeley’s lack of local government experience.
“Indeed that might be an inhibitor on the basis that most of the people in the year 2012 that have had local government experience don’t enthuse ratepayers and citizens that much.”
Apologies and context
First of all, my apologies for the intemperate tone of the earlier posting. The work of previous administrations, including during Warren Cooper's terms, has always been done with the interests of the community at heart. The challenges of governing the vibrant communities and nationally critical economy of Queenstown Lakes is never easy - for elected officials or local government staff. The lessons learnt from the Queenstown experiences, including the contracting-out phase, have been invaluable elsewhere in New Zealand. The more balanced approach introduced more recently is performing relatively well. The current moves to establish a more efficient and effective single location for most council and Lakes Environmental staff is another step in a positive direction. A new CEO, with a fresh set of eyes, experience in a wide range administrative and leadership roles, with the confidence of council, has the potential to enable QLDC to become one of the most effective and best value for money small local authorities around. We are all proud of our communities, warts and all. Wouldn't it great of we could all be equally proud of our council and the services that it provides as well?
08 Sep 2012 11:42AMMountainMan
What exactly is the problem with a well qualified leader being paid a competitive salary for what is an extremely challenging role? Comparing Queenstown to other relatively small resident communities is hardly realistic. The challenges of providing, maintaining and future-proofing critical infrastructure for the most important single district in the New Zealand in tourism terms, within the seasonal business and cyclical development environment are not well appreciated. The national embarrassment of local government that is the legacy of the Cooper years is going to take years to repair. The inefficient contracting out model of that unfortunate experiment is slowly being wound back, so that ratepayers can actually control the management of the services that they depend on every day. Finishing that disaster recovery process will take strong leadership and clarity of purpose. Managing the wide range of council services and staff, as well as managing with the mixed governance bag of elected officials, is not an easy task. Doing so in the face of some cynical community and media interests is not something that many people could stomach for long. Let's give the guy a chance to demonstrate his worth and the wisdom of the Council's decision.
07 Sep 2012 07:42PMMountainMan
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