Queenstown’s outgoing council boss warns his successor faces trench warfare to get anything done.
Adam Feeley also gives his strongest indication the planned $70 million convention centre is dead in the water.
Feeley quit his position as chief executive earlier this week after three years of change, public consultation and Environment Court battles.
Feeley, former head of the Serious Fraud Office, says: “It’s a challenging community in some respects in terms of litigation.
“Having worked in Wellington, Auckland and London, some of the people and their style of doing business is a real challenge.
“It’s a relatively confrontational business environment at times.”
The council has been embroiled in battles with Porter Group over land surrounding Queenstown Airport over the three years and before.
They’ve also been at loggerheads over the proposed convention centre, with Alastair Porter moving to open a private centre - the staging point for a $50 million gondola to the Remarkables - while the proposed council centre flounders.
Feeley says restraints imposed by the Local Government Act make progress hard going, both for the convention centre and opening up town centre land for development. Feeley says the excitement of a council-backed centre could have kept him in the job.
“I suppose at the moment with litigation over Plan Change 50 and funding issues over the convention centre, if you were a pessimist you might think there’s a risk that one or both won’t go ahead.’
Feeley says there are myriad reasons why he’s handed in his notice but a new job isn’t one of them.
He says he has irons in the fire and is considering options.
“As much as I’d like to spend the entire summer sitting on my ride-on mower, I suspect it won’t be too long before I have to think about paying the mortgage and get a job.”
Having never spent more than a few years in one role, he’ll be looking for something different and challenging.
Asked about the vacant Queenstown Airport chief job, he jokes: “I don’t even like landing at Queenstown Airport when it’s windy.”
In seriousness, he says he hasn’t considered that role.
Neither does he have plans to immediately apply to make his six hectares at Arrowtown a special housing area.
He was cleared by the Auditor-General over a conflict of interest after his family trust applied for a fast-tracked subdivision - something he now admits was an unnecessary distraction.
“I’m not about to go off and be a developer, if that’s your question.”
Feeley says he’d love his successor to be an internal appointment and feels he’s left the body in rude health with a strong team, although staff turnover is a challenge.
Change-manager Feeley, who began his reign with a shake-up that cut a third of full-time equivalent posts, is calling for a safe pair of hands.
He says: “You want a degree of stability, someone who builds on it.’
He hopes the public recognise the council and staff always try their best for the community.