Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley, who’ll be Queenstown Lakes District Council’s new chief executive in two months, is quizzed by Ryan Keen.
Mountain Scene: Why Queenstown?
Adam Feeley: My wife and I are from the South Island and we’ve been coming here since year dot. It has a sufficiently vibrant community that offers the lifestyle I like in terms of outdoor stuff and is a great place to bring up a kid with good schools and all the rest of it. I’m sure there are plenty of other places in New Zealand like that but this is the place I’ve been coming to so it’s the one I identify with.
MS: How’d the job come about?
AF: Out the blue. We thought our boy is three, so by the school age of five we’ll try to make it. I hadn’t actually been looking for a job. I thought I’ll go on seek.co.nz and register for emails and literally the next day this job came into my inbox and I thought you’ve got to be kidding.
MS: You shook up the Serious Fraud Office – same for council?
AF: I don’t quite know yet. That’s probably mayor Vanessa van Uden and the council’s call. I think they know what they’re getting in terms of personality and track record. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to sit on his hands. I want to get my feet under the table and figure out what makes the place tick [but] you wouldn’t call me a steady state kind of person.
MS: High-profile job in a small town – up for the spotlight?
AF: I’m definitely used to public criticism. You take the rough with the smooth in this kind of job. There was some really nasty stuff said about me online when announced I was leaving. Equally there was some really nice stuff. We’ve had unsolicited emails come into my inbox at SFO from just random people saying you’re doing a great job. I wouldn’t say I liked it but it’s just part and parcel of the job.
MS: A Motatapu regular – plan to keep that up?
AF: I’ve done the marathon four times, the adventure run once and the triathlon this year. It’s brutal, absolutely brutal. The training’s going to be a lot better. I had a lousy race this year so I’m looking to go back and do the triathlon again.
MS: How do you think you’ll get on with mayor Vanessa van Uden?
AF: With me what you see is what you get and I think Vanessa’s very similar. I think we’ll work together really well. She’ll be a reasonably tough taskmaster and I’ve had a few of those before so that’ll be great.
MS: Can‘t be any tougher than the State Services Commissioner?
AF: I was thinking more [Minister of Justice] Judith Collins. It’s a lot more casual down here. I got stick for not wearing a tie at SFO … there were ructions when I turned up first day without one. Vanessa said she probably would have had to rip it off me if I turned up in a suit and tie two weeks ago to meet people. I think the style of interaction down here is more suited to me. I think you can do a really professional job without being really formal.
MS: Many people will identify you from the Bridgecorp bottle of wine incident and for handing out the late Allan Hubbard’s biography as prizes at a Christmas party?
AF: If the media try to do a number on you, then you have two options. You can come back with all the facts and tell story as it happened and it just feeds story for a few more days or you can sit there and take it. I’ve no doubt at some point I’ll get a beating in Mountain Scene.
MS: We’ll see. But giving out those books as booby prizes wasn’t a great look?
AF: They weren’t actually given out as booby prizes … they were actually given out quite seriously. We had some teams that had some good results during the year and we had a bunch of books to do with fairly significant figures in the business world. I know you can still question the judgement. But at the end of the day, I thought ‘Well, we’re investigating the guy, this is a biography about his life, in a way kind of odd not to read it’.