Parting Shot: A tale of two appointments


My four-year-old son loves something called The Looky Book, which attempts to kick-start youngsters’ brains.

On one particular page there’s a steam ship (that looks suspiciously like the Earnslaw) chuffing across a crystal clear lake.

The trick is to spot the differences between the tourist boat scene and the reflection: stripes that switch from vertical to horizontal, for example, or a singlet that, in the mirror image, is now a jersey.

By now my son knows all the differences, but he still enjoys pointing them out.

In Queenstown’s adult world, a similar “spot the difference” game has popped up across Lake Wakatipu.

At the end of the Frankton Arm, Queenstown Airport is recruiting a new boss, after the sad loss of Scott Paterson last year.

It took the company - majority owned by you, the ratepayer - four months to start searching.

Board chairman John Gilks says: “We avoided the Christmas-New Year period when people are more interested in family and holidays than recruitment.’

We revealed in Thursday’s paper that recruitment giant Korn Ferry will start looking in earnest next week.

Night flights to Queenstown are due to start in July, but there’s still no unholy rush to appoint a successor.

Chief bean counter Mark Edghill is seen as a competent stand-in.

Across the lake, near Queenstown Bay, a very different approach has been taken by Queenstown’s council - the airport’s majority owner.

Council boss Adam Feeley announced his resignation in November, three years into a five-year term (he did the same at his previous job, heading the Serious Fraud Office).

The wise money might have been on a long recruitment.

Back in 2012, numbers man Stewart Burns filled in for four months between former boss Debra Lawson leaving and Feeley arriving.

Remarkably, considering how many senior managers have left, Burns is still there.

Yet, the council somehow managed to make an appointment - at a time when, remember, people are “more interested in family and holidays”.

Enter Mike Theelen, whose appointment was announced on a Thursday last month.

Theelen seems like a warm and genuine bloke, but he seems to have more baggage than a visiting Saudi prince.

The former Christchurch City Council planning boss was singled out by ex-High Court judge Sir John Hansen for seeming surprisingly “not well-informed” when its draft district plan went to hearings.

Soon after, his department was reviewed. He resigned in December.

Theelen told me: “I chose not to look for a new role - I didn’t think that the way my job was being restructured suited my skill-set - and it certainly had nothing to do with Judge Hansen’s or anybody else’s comments.”

He takes up the post this month, before Feeley leaves.

Can you spot which recruiting process is a singlet and which is the jersey?

Gilks is a former deputy chairman of Fisher and Paykel Industries.

He wants to ensure the airport is run by the highest calibre person available.

The mirror image, across the lake, is a little unkind on the council.

Several people suggest that Theelen’s a good, competent guy. However, he might have struggled to deal with the Christchurch council’s post-quake regime.

He deserves a chance to find his feet and prove himself.

But already tongues are wagging about the manner and timing of his appointment. Even a four-year-old could see that.

Councillors have chosen their man. Now they need to take every opportunity to defend him.

Theelen loves hiking. Through no fault of his own, he now has an extra mountain to climb.