The Queenstown Lakes’ top job has gone to a controversial former Christchurch City Council manager, Mike Theelen.
Incumbent Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive Adam Feeley, quit his $305,000-a-year job in November, warning his successor faces trench warfare to get anything done.
That person, the council announced yesterday, is Mr Theelen (55), the Christchurch council’s former chief planning officer, who left his job only last month.
He starts in Queenstown early next month.
Theelen says he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s going to be new territory for me but it’s an exciting part of the country with a lot happening.”
However, his time in Christchurch was not without controversy.
He was singled out by former Christchurch High Court judge Sir John Hansen, who was chairing an independent hearings panel into the council’s draft district plan, for seeming surprisingly ill-informed about the draft’s contents.
Two months later, it was announced his planning department was being reviewed.
Theelen told the Otago Daily Times last night he didn’t leave under a cloud.
“I chose not to look for a new role – I didn’t think that the way my job was being restructured suited my skill-set – and it certainly had nothing to do with Judge Hansen’s or anybody else’s comments.”
He says his priorities will be set by councillors, with whom he spoke yesterday afternoon.
“There is a district plan review – they’ve got major issues with growth and development and we’ll be looking at those.
“They’ve got a number of projects in their long-term plan which they want to continue to advance and [they will be] looking to continue to consolidate the organisation and make it as effective and efficient as possible.”
He confirms a drive for efficiency – a hallmark of Feeley’s three-and-a-bit years at the helm – will continue.
But he ducked a question about a potential bed tax – “it would be premature to make any observations on that”.
Queenstown Lakes mayor Vanessa van Uden yesterday described Theelen as a “seasoned local government practitioner with a strong background in planning and leadership”.
Theelen, who is a keen tramper, says he and his wife will relocate to Queenstown.
He has three adult children, two in Auckland and one in Sydney.
Is he going to buy a house? “I don’t know yet. We don’t want to rush into the market,” he says.
“We’re committed to becoming part of the community here.”
He declined to say if his salary was similar to Mr Feeley’s $305,000 a year.