Council boss’ ‘throw-away line’


Queenstown council boss Adam Feeley admitted being “slightly conflicted” about special housing areas in May last year.

That’s months before declaring his family trust’s intention to apply for one.

In the lead-up to the council calling for expressions of interest, Feeley also joked with planning staff about the possibility of his land being eligible for a special housing area.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost’s report, released last week, cleared Feeley and the council of any wrongdoing over a conflict of interest.

Feeley’s family trust wanted fast-track approval for a 20-house development on the edge of Arrowtown - a fact Feeley disclosed to Mayor Vanessa van Uden last November and the Mountain Scene made public in February.

While the Feeley conflict was managed “appropriately”, Provost’s report reveals an interesting email exchange between the chief executive and his planning manager Marc Bretherton on May 9 last year.

Bretherton - briefing his boss before a meeting with Housing Minister Nick Smith - raises the possibility of designating land west of Gorge Road a special housing area to speed up rezoning for housing.

Feeley asks Bretherton why the council is limiting itself to Queenstown.

His email says: “Acknowledging that I am slightly conflicted, Arrowtown is also in need of greater high-density housing.”

He goes on to say Arrowtown has significant space for development “but has a group of generational NIMBYs driving the house prices through the roof”.

Bretherton responds he’s right about Arrowtown but the council needed to consider the possible “uproar”.

Feeley wouldn’t take Mountain Scene’s calls this week about the Auditor-General’s report.

But he told Provost’s team it was a “throw-away line”.

Feeley said if had intended to offer the land owned by his family for a special housing area then he would not have made the comment.

However, there is further evidence Feeley was considering developing his family’s land.

Provost’s report states after his family bought the six hectares of rural land in late 2012, a family member of a previous owner “raised the possibility of developing a strip of the land” opposite houses on McDonnell Road.

Feeley had discussed with “people” the likelihood of getting consent for the development.

Also, in the months before the council called for expressions of interest the council boss “made light-hearted remarks to planning staff about the possibility of the chief executive’s land being eligible for a special housing area”.

Feeley told Provost’s office he did not think seriously about developing the land until after the council called for expressions of interest. On November 20, he engaged planning firm Mitchell Partnerships - and told the mayor five days later.

Provost’s report said the council acted appropriately and responsibly to manage Feeley’s conflict.

Van Uden and Feeley checked with the Auditor-General’s office to see if they were doing the right thing but failed to follow the office’s advice.

Van Uden declined to be interviewed.