Counselling’ for council staffers

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A confirmed Queenstown Lakes District Council restructure affects 100 staff – with counselling being offered. 

Sources say staff are also being offered recruitment advice on the back of the major but well-forecast overhaul. 

Council chief executive Adam Feeley this week unveiled a final report – axing about 40 fulltime equivalent positions – and saying an overall direction for change was maintained. 

However, care was taken to ensure the scale and timing of it could be managed without adverse effects on services, he says. 

To help, council has recruited Coronet Peak ski operations boss Paul Speedy as a transition manager. It’s also pushed the deadline for some changes back from July to October. 

The counselling offer is no surprise – an earlier draft report on the shake-up, leaked to Mountain Scene last month, notes staff have access to support via the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). 

“EAP provides access to professional counsellors should you wish to discuss any matters confidentially,” it advised. 

The new structure involves the disestablishment of both arms-length regulatory body Lakes Environmental and recreation and venues operator Lakes Leisure. The functions of the council controlled organisations (CCOs) are being brought back in-house. 

The review focuses on instilling a customer service ethos throughout council’s ranks, and anticipates annual savings of up to $2 million. 

Among major changes – already forecast – are the establishment of in-house legal experts and merging Lakes Leisure operations with the community services team, and Lakes Environmental engineers with the infrastructure division. 

Priority is given to establishing new public ”services centres” in Queenstown and Wanaka, turning libraries into one-stop shops where the public can pay rates, apply for consents and sort dog licences, as well as borrow books. 

In response to the leaked draft report’s heavy criticism of some parts of council, Feeley says: “We’ve gone through a rigorous review process which hasn’t ducked asking the challenging questions, but … in most respects QLDC and our CCOs measure up very well to comparable local authorities. 

“However, we’re not content with the status quo.” 

Meanwhile, the Southern Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architects wrote to Feeley two weeks ago saying it was concerned about a proposal to ditch landscape architecture staff and contract out expert advice. 

“We consider if this approach is followed, it’ll be significantly detrimental to the management of the landscape resource,” the local branch chairman Ben Espie writes. 

Espie adds careful and consistent management of the Lakes District landscape resource has been well served in the last 15 years by an expert in-house team. 

That’d be “significantly jeopardised” with landscape planning advice coming via individual pieces of work by a variety of contractors, he writes. 

Feeley says after staff submissions, he’s re-established an in-house landscape planner. 

“Accordingly, I think the issue raised has effectively been addressed,” Feeley says.