Queenstown council to co-opt business brains in private ‘out of respect’

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A move to co-opt unelected business brains to a new council committee will be finalised in private. 

A new-look Queenstown Lakes District Council has its first post-election meeting at 1pm today – and the agenda says discussion on appointing two external members to an Audit and Risk Committee should be done with public excluded. 

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden, spearheading the establishment of the committee and push for two outsiders on it, says she’ll go public with the decision as soon as it’s made. 

Van Uden says three or four candidates are being considered. 

On holding the meeting with public excluded, Van Uden tells Mountain Scene: “It’s about protecting those people’s privacy and to have a chance to talk about them, what skills we’re looking for and who brings the best option, rather than insult people or potentially upset people by talking about them. 

“Out of respect for those individuals, you don’t do that in a public forum.” 

The candidates include a Wanaka person and a Queenstown Lakes resident who doesn’t live here permanently,
Van Uden says, adding: “Rather than narrowing focus in terms of saying it needs to be someone in the district, this is about getting the best skill set.” 

Van Uden says the committee can’t make decisions, just recommendations – and will go nowhere near strategy, policy or future direction. 

“People think we’re co-opting business brains to tell council what to do – that’s not the case. 

“It’s completely internally focused on how well the council is doing what it needs to be doing in terms of finance, audit and risk management and they are most definitely not charged with telling elected people what to do.” 

An agenda item notes such committees contribute to governance, performance and accountability of public entities – and its purpose is to oversee effective council risk management, legal and regulatory compliance, audits and financial reporting. 

It recommends Van Uden and new Wanaka councillor Calum MacLeod be members – and two appointees join them. 

The move to set up the new committee is part of Van Uden’s proposed decision-making re-structure. Van Uden wants four main committees – finance, stra-tegy, infrastructure and com-munity services – scrapped and to have one big council meeting to discuss everything. 

Van Uden hopes it’ll save councillors and staff time plus ensure all councillors are across every issue. 

In place of committees, councillors will take on “portfolio leader” responsibility aligned with council divisions.
Van Uden’s mayoral report designates portfolio leaders – who may be eligible for additional fees. 

It names third-term councillor and former Queenstown Primary principal Mel Gazzard as operations portfolio leader, with first-term councillor Craig Ferguson as deputy. 

Deputy mayor Lyal Cocks, of Wanaka, leads infrastructure and assets, with first-term councillor Alexa Forbes as deputy. Third-term councillor Cath Gilmour is to lead planning and development with Wanaka councillor Ella Lawton as deputy.