Mayor’s mobile is hands-free


A Chinese mobile phone given to Queenstown’s mayor is still in its box.

But Vanessa van Uden says it’s not because of official advice over potential spying.

The mayor’s hospitality and gift register, released to Mountain Scene, reveals just one gift received between June 2014 and November last year.

It was a $250 Huawei Ascend P6 phone given by Chinese ambassador Wang Lutong last May.

Late last year, Fairfax Media ran a story quoting an unidentified media executive who said he was warned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade not to use a computer gear gift from a Chinese business delegation over spyware fears.

Van Uden confirms she hasn’t used the phone and laughs when asked if she’s had official advice about spying.

She doesn’t think the Chinese want to spy on her office - but still doesn’t intend using it.

“I have no need for a phone.”

Entries from the hospitality register reveals six gifts to Van Uden totalling $1580.

Eleven days after receiving the phone from Wang, the mayor dined with visiting Chinese party secretary Hu Chunhua.

The $60 tab at Pier 19 was picked up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Records show Van Uden was treated to dinner three other times in 12 months.

Again, the taxpayer, through Government House, shouted during the Governor General’s visit in November ($60, The Rees); in October and the Asian Angel Business Conference paid $60 for a Walter Peak nosh-up.

Auckland Airport’s board - which has a stake in Queenstown Airport - paid $100 for Van Uden and council boss Adam Feeley to dine at Jervois Steak House in December 2014.

The single-biggest gift - from Air NZ - was $1100 flights to Auckland for Van Uden and Feeley to attend a mayoral forum in June last year.

The Southern Steel netball team handed her complimentary season passes, worth $200, last February.

Gift and hospitality registers have been kept since June 2014 and the mayor is the only elected representative to report them.

Mountain Scene asked for disclosures by Van Uden and councillors of so-called “pecuniary or non-pecuniary” interests.

However, the council’s information gatekeeper Barbara East says a list of these declarations is not kept.