Queenstown’s mayor axed airport chairman

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Mayor Vanessa van Uden used her casting vote twice to oust Queenstown Airport’s chairman in a battle that’s put her at odds with her deputy. 

Wanaka-based deputy mayor Lyal Cocks reveals he’s “surprised and disappointed” by Queenstown Lakes District Council’s decision to force Mark Taylor to resign last week. 

“I believe the reasons given for demanding his resignation are not valid – and that’s why I strongly opposed it,” he tells Mountain Scene

Cocks won’t disclose the “reasons” for removing Taylor, citing legal privilege, but adds: “I can’t speak for others who had other views, only to say that I think it was quite a narrow focus. 

“They seemed to be concentrating on relationships rather than outcomes.” 

Meanwhile, a source tells Mountain Scene councillors fought during two recent closed-door meetings – and Van Uden had to use her casting vote at both sessions – before finally sealing Taylor’s fate. 

At the first closed-door meeting, councillors and Van Uden were evenly split 5-5 over Taylor staying or going. 

The mayor then exercised her second – or casting – vote in favour of dumping him. 

But with an unknown councillor absent and not voting, there was general unease about the decision, the source 
says. 

A second public-excluded meeting was held with the then-absent councillor present – but this time a different councillor, also unknown, was unable to attend. 

Once again, it was a hung jury on the first ballot – 5-5 between councillors and Van Uden, with the mayor’s casting vote again sealing Taylor’s fate. 

The missing councillor was known to be vehemently anti-Taylor – meaning if he or she had voted, Taylor would have been ousted by a 6-5 majority. 

Therefore, Van Uden’s second casting vote was effectively just a proxy for the absent councillor, the source says.
Taylor’s departure comes one month before separate High Court bids by Air New Zealand and an outspoken local business lobby group to overturn Queenstown Airport’s 24.99 per cent share sale to Auckland Airport for $27.7 million. 

Taylor oversaw the secret deal, which created a public outcry last year. 

Asked if the lobby faction, Queenstown Community Strategic Assets Group, had any influence on the council’s decision, Cocks says: “It didn’t influence my position but I can’t speak for the others. I suggest that it may have.”