Council staff crisis deepens


A Queenstown councillor has broken ranks to say she has serious concerns about staff turnover.

Cath Gilmour says she’s “particularly gutted” at the latest resignation - district plan manager Matthew Paetz handed in his notice this week.

He’s the latest in a string of high-profile departures in recent years, including half a dozen top managers and numerous seniors.

Gilmour says: “To me it’s a strong concern.”

Asked whether the inability to retain top staff is causing a crisis at council, Gilmour says: “It’s a big word ‘crisis’.

“It’s certainly a serious concern. There’s been some discussions [among councillors] but I can’t speak for others.”

Experienced operators such as transport boss Denis Mander, planning boss Marc Bretherton and building services manager Peter Laurenson have all jumped ship or resigned in recent months.

Paetz is another to leave the planning department.

Gilmour: “He was a fabulous policy brain in terms of getting our district plan underway.

“We’ll miss him. He was integral to such a massive undertaking as the district plan review.”

Gilmour says council staff have “a heck of a lot of work on their plates” but there are lots of different reasons why staff decide to move on.

Councillors Simon Stamers-Smith and Mel Gazzard say good staff are headhunted by other organisations, so resignations are par for the course.

Deputy mayor Lyal Cocks says: “It’s disappointing and disruptive but these things happen.’

Paetz says a combination of a “great professional opportunity” in Auckland and compelling family and personal reasons are prompting his move.

“Obviously there have been a number of departures this year but there’s always different reasons behind them.

“This is perhaps not the best timing but it’s for reasons outside of the council.”

Paetz says he’s enjoyed the “busy and demanding” role - and notes the days of local authority work being 9am-5pm are “long gone”.

Paetz leaves in late January after the review of 837 submissions on the district plan, just before hearings.

Resource consenting manager Blair Devlin has been appointed acting policy manager.

Council boss Adam Feeley says it’s disappointing to lose Paetz, who made a “great contribution”.

“The national property market, district plan reviews nationally, and the Christchurch rebuild are all having an effect on retaining planning, building and engineering staff.”

Queenstown’s council has been receiving high-quality applicants for recent jobs, he says.