$300,000 in board fees

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A senior Queenstown Lakes councillor is defending the fees paid to council-company directors – totalling almost $300,000 a year. 

Queenstown Airport Corporation’s four-person board is the highest paid at $115,000, followed by $94,300 for the quartet directing regulatory body Lakes Environmental. 

A further $83,600 is paid to the four directors of sportsfield and swimming pool operator Lakes Leisure.
Board fees cover the financial year to June 30. 

The 12 non-executive directors average $24,416 each for their part-time roles, with sacked airport chairman Mark Taylor the highest-paid individual at $43,100. 

Queenstown Lakes District Council ‘finance minister’, councillor John Mann, backs the independent board structure for council companies. 

“The boards bring another layer of professionalism.” 

Despite all three quangos having chief executives earning between $150,000-$270,000, Mann believes it’s better their bosses report to independent boards than the council. 

“[Boards] bring other disciplines,” he says. 

“Politicians are temporary and you don’t want your governance board coming and going on the whim of an election.” 

Change may be afoot, however – Mann reveals QLDC will soon commence a high-level “strategic review” encompassing council companies. 

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden is personally driving the previously unpublicised review, Mann says. 

Mann reveals he’s currently shortlisting airport applicants. 

Taylor was sacked in April after the airport corporation’s board secretly sold off 24.99 per cent of the resort airport to Auckland Airport. 

The council has since been seeking two new airport directors – one of whom will become chairman – and has had more than 70 applications. 

It’s not known how much the new airport directors will be paid. 

Auckland Airport’s stake prevents disestablishing the local airport company but Mann won’t rule out the council possibly taking back direct control of Lakes Environmental or Lakes Leisure. 

“I wouldn’t rule it out – it’s not the purpose of this strategic review but I wouldn’t want to predetermine an outcome,” Mann says. 

Mann also says the secret airport sell-off gave councillors a wakeup call about council companies. 

“God, it was unbelievable – for nearly six months, we were very distressed by [the share sale].”