Now it’s the QLD-flee

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Half of the hand-picked executive team at Queenstown’s council has resigned within 20 months. 

Four of the eight senior managers appointed after a brutal restructure in 2013 have already left or given notice. 

General manager of operations Ruth Stokes, general manager infrastructure Erik Barnes, human resources director Beth Bundy and chief information officer Kirsty Martin have all resigned. 

Four of the 21 managers working in the tier below have also jumped ship. 

Chief executive Adam Feeley says workloads are becoming a challenge, which could lead to burn-out. 

But he believes resignations, with a few exceptions, were unpreventable. 

“I am always disappointed to lose good people,” Feeley says. 

“The reality is people have a variety of reasons for leaving - better salary; moving to a new city. 

“I am only concerned when they are leaving for preventable reasons; i.e. something in the workplace that could have been addressed to keep them within the organisation.”

When he headed the Serious Fraud Office, Feeley oversaw what he described as the biggest shake-up in its 20-year history. 

The office lost nearly a third of its staff, with five choosing to leave and another seven made redundant. 

His axe-swinging continued when he arrived at Queenstown Lakes District Council, with a wide-ranging restructuring in 2012/13, following an independent review, driving towards $2 million to $3m a year in savings. 

Arms-length organisations Lakes Leisure and Lakes Environmental were brought in-house and three top council managers lost their jobs. 

A total of 36.22 fulltime-equivalent jobs were cut. 

A council contractor, who didn’t want to be named, says workloads are a problem. 

“There’s a hell of a lot of dissatisfaction going on right through the organisation,” the contractor says. 

“It’s indicative of district councils all over the place. 

“It’s alright trying to save money by downsizing your management team but it doesn’t work if people get brassed off and leave.”

Feeley says the volume of day-to-day work and projects at present is “reasonably significant” compared with like-sized councils. 

“I’m not sure about dissatisfaction,” Feeley says, “but there is some recognition that workloads are becoming a
challenge.

“It is something I have flagged to council in terms of the annual work programme and we will need to manage that is achievable and what needs to be prioritised in the coming year.”

He admits he’s a hard task master but that’s driven by what’s asked of his team. 

“I think the vast majority of people enjoy a challenge. Equally, I think we need to be mindful of workloads and the demands in recent times have been considerable.”

He says the council’s aware of burn-out and it’s being managed. 

Turnover at QLDC was 25.4 per cent in the 2013/14 financial year and 16 per cent this financial year. The national average for workplaces is 20.4 per cent. 

Former council HR boss Bundy, who left after 14 months to take the same post at Counties Manukau Health, says she would have been happy to stay at QLDC. 

“But I was offered a brilliant opportunity in Auckland, the next step in my career.”

Former CIO Martin similarly says she and hubby Steve had been in Queenstown 20 years and were sick of winters. 

She adds: “We’re not skiers. It’s a good innings and time for a change of scenery.”

Her last day is February 19 before she heads to Nelson. 

Stokes and Barnes were unavailable for comment. 

Parks manager Mike Weaver declined to comment. 

paul.taylor@scene.co.nz