Queenstown council’s proposed shakeup will see 74 jobs go up for grabs

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Proposals for a major overhaul of Queenstown Lakes District Council will see more than 70 new and pre-existing jobs go up for grabs in a new slimmed-down operation.

A confidential consultation document – leaked to Mountain Scene this week – recommends advertising internally and externally for 74 new and pre-existing positions.

These include a layer of four new general managers directly under chief executive Adam Feeley, who’ll unveil final decisions on the new structure by April 30 after staff feedback.

The heavyweight general manager positions include a planning and development boss overseeing a 34-strong department delivering most of Lakes Environmental’s tasks – plus planning and policy. An operations boss, leading 91 full-time positions, will have responsibilities including sport and recreation, libraries, venues, campgrounds and customer services.

Three new positions overseeing infrastructure and assets, a legal and regulatory department and the chief executive’s office are also recommended.

They’re among 37 roles that’ll be advertised externally from May 2 – if Feeley green-lights the proposals.

A further 37 positions – some new and some pre-existing – will only be open to candidates already at council or Lakes Environmental and Lakes Leisure. In situations where there’s more than one person for the job, a contestable selection process will be used.

The report says the process for existing council staff will involve notice they’re either being reconfirmed, reassigned to a similar position, redeployed to new or vacant roles – or made redundant.

Staff not accepting an offer of reassignment within council “may not be entitled to any redundancy compensation that you would otherwise be entitled to”, the report says. 

The new positions are part of a proposed restructure which also recommends axing the equivalent of almost 42 full-time positions from the council roster. This will effectively drop its fulltime equivalent staffing from 265.98 to 224.14. 

In real terms, it represents 80 full-time and part-time jobs that are going west out of 334 roles all up.
 
The job cuts are among proposed changes in the document – prepared by an independent team led by ex-Auckland Regional Council boss Peter Winder – contributing to estimated savings of $2-3 million annually in the short to medium term. 

Major casualties of the wide-ranging review already include the chief executive positions of council controlled organisations (CCOs) Lakes Environmental, which oversees regulatory matters, and venue and recreation operator Lakes Leisure. 

Council voted to disestablish both CCOs last month after the first stage of the review and bring their functions back in-house. 

Feeley, who addressed all staff on Tuesday about the document prior to its release, told Mountain Scene this week the review was “not a numbers game”. 

“Some of those proposals are as much driven by improving services as they are about cost-saving. There will be savings out of this but the other important thing is it’s also about maintaining services and in many cases lifting services.” 

Feeley said he believe the estimated savings of $2-3 million was “optimistic” but it would be a seven-figure number. The range was so big at the moment because the exact size of salaries for some new positions wouldn’t be known until people had been appointed, he said. 

The report calls for beefing up the technical skills of the planning department, while extra technical and commercial skill is required within the infrastructure team. 

The council should also hire in-house lawyers, it says. 

Council outsources all legal work, costing on average $1.5 millon a year, a figure bloated by council’s “vague and unclear” instructions to providers MacTodd, Simpson Grierson and a specialist insurance and leaky building firm. 

A new in-house law manager and senior solicitor would halve the cost, and amount to $300,000-$350,000 in annual savings – after the new salaries are deducted, the report says. 

Feeley said staff feedback will be a vital part of the restructure process: “Our staff has a coalface perspective that needs to be factored in.” 

Staff must submit feedback by April 16.