Fears over exodus of Queenstown council’s top brass

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A decision to bring the function of two council-controlled organisations back in-house will lead to a major brain-drain in Queenstown, a shocked staff member says. 

Mayor Vanessa van Uden announced yesterday Queens­town’s council has formally disestablished Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs) Lakes Environmental Ltd and Lakes Leisure Ltd. 

It comes amid a $166,000 council organisational review, including the two arms-length CCOs – which delivered regulatory, planning and recreational services. 

Those services will be taken back in-house by council with recommendations on the new single structure due to be announced on April 2. 

It is anticipated staff will “largely” be transferred to council but the axe is expected to fall at board level and elsewhere. 

The anonymous CCO staffer says: “I’m shocked because people have families, mortgages and are part of the community. 

“They work for the community. [Morale] is terrible. People have been looking for other jobs. 

“What normally happens in organisational reviews is the top 20 per cent, the really good staff with good qualifications and experience, leave and go elsewhere. 

“There are no jobs in town for that skill level. So people will be going to Christchurch and to Australia.” 

Van Uden says the council accelerated this part of the wider council efficiency review after an extensive briefing with the review team – led by former Auckland Regional Council boss Peter Winder. 

“I did see it coming in the sense that when you have a review team that comes down from Auckland that’s being paid $166,000 people aren’t people any more – they’re only numbers,” the source says. 

The staffer says most believe they will have to re-apply for their CCO positions within the single council structure. 
Staff were informed at 3pm yesterday. The process is expected to continue till the end of June. 

Van Uden says integration will be more efficient and effective. 

“The case for re-integration for both organisations was compelling,” Van Uden says. 

“We’re the only local authority to have these core functions sitting in a CCO model. 

“The decision is in no way a reflection on the staff or governing bodies of these two organisations.” 

The CCOs will be aligned with the council’s planning service and community services departments respectively. 

The review team took into account considerations such as fragmentation of council services, the need for public accountability, the need to avoid unnecessary governance and administration costs, and whether the services performed were true commercial activities or simply core local government activities. 

Van Uden says one of the key benefits would be a single point of service for residents. 

“There remain numerous operational challenges ahead for council,” Van Uden says. 

“The review team will be re-commending changes on these in its draft report on April 2, which will then be the subject of consultation with staff. 

“It is business as usual in the short term. 

“The public will be dealing with the same staff at the same locations until we can finalise changes over coming months,” she says.