Queenstown mayor for Parliament?


Queenstown’s mayor isn’t ruling out a shot at national politics after finishing her second term leading the local district council.

Queenstown Lakes district mayor Vanessa van Uden, re-elected in a landslide over challenger Al Angus two weeks ago, is adamant she’ll exit local body politics at the next election in 2016.

“The only thing I would say definitively is I honestly believe my time in local government will be at an end.

“But I wouldn’t cross any other thing off the list.”

Asked if she’d consider standing for Parliament, she says: “Yep, wouldn’t say no to it. It’d be quite interesting, actually.”

Van Uden adds: “If there’s one thing this election campaign showed me, you need to recognise when you’re getting frustrated by some of the aspects of what you’re doing and you need to try something new.

“Who knows what that might be.” 

Queenstown’s first female mayor is keen to emphasise she’ll be focused on the task at hand for the next three years of her mayoralty.

“There are three more years of hard work to get stuff done first so I’m not focusing on three years’ time. 

“If anyone thinks the eye is going to be off the ball, they’d be mistaken.

“I’m absolutely wanting to get it done, want to get it finished, want to leave having left it in a better way than when I got it – but people need to know I’m going.”

Van Uden says she feels a bit weird admitting she plans to stand down in 2016, having just been re-elected, but says she wants to create an atmosphere where people considering her role are thinking about it and paying attention.

“With all due respect to people out there, I think it’s important that whoever is interested gets involved relatively early on so it’s a seamless switchover.”

The former council contracts boss who did one term as a councillor before winning the mayoralty in a three-horse race in 2010 says there’s no chance she’ll reconsider and push for a third term.

“Three years ago I said I’d do two terms because I believe very strongly that you need to have fresh thoughts and views and ideas.

“I’ve watched people get really tired and, you know what I mean, stale,” she says. 

“I don’t want to leave on that note. I want to leave on a note where people would like more – rather than be thinking ‘oh my god, get her out of here’.

“To me it’s a privilege to be the mayor and I don’t want to get to the point where I think I’m more important than the job and I’ve watched that happen,” she says.

Van Uden admits among her first tasks is getting the new council faces – two in Wanaka and the Queenstown-Wakatipu ward threesome of Craig ‘Ferg’ Ferguson, Alexa Forbes and Merv Aoake – up to speed.

“We have five newbies and they’re unknown quantities.”

Last week, Queenstown business luminary and Forsyth Barr chairman Sir Eion Edgar expressed disappointment with the lack of people with business backgrounds voted in, saying it’s the biggest business in the region and needs commercial input.

Van Uden has issued a challenge to the Wakatipu commercial community to field more candidates for the next election in 2016 – but believes the commercial nous of council staff is as strong as it’s ever been.