The gloves have come off in Queenstown’s squeaky-clean mayoral campaign – with candidates trading barbs with two weeks to go.
Mayoral hopeful and real estate agent Simon Hayes has accused rival Vanessa van Uden of not disclosing a potential conflict of interest at recent public meetings.
Hayes is also taking a pot-shot at opponent Michael Scott over comments he’s made about the controversial 24.99 per cent share sale of Queenstown Airport.
Hayes’ comments have shocked Van Uden and Scott, with Scott saying the move is “below the belt”.
Meanwhile, eyebrows have been raised over timing of an overseas holiday by Hayes – he left yesterday for a five-week trip to Europe that will run past the election’s October 9 deadline.
At a public meeting in Frankton on Sunday, Hayes informed 80 attendees about a question at a previous forum at Kelvin Heights over whether any candidates would have future conflicts of interest.
“I certainly have none,” Hayes said.
Van Uden didn’t tell the Kelvin Heights meeting of her Scope Resources role, which handles Victoria Flats landfill’s council contract, he said.
“At a utilities committee meeting I was at on August 31, Vanessa declared a conflict and left. There was a discussion about the cost over-run of $170,000 to do the sludge disposal to landfill.
The issue’s still not resolved, and to the best of my knowledge $170,000 hasn’t been satisfactorily explained,” Hayes says.
“The landfill contract is a significant part of council’s costs. If that isn’t a conflict of interest then please explain to me what is.”
In response, Van Uden said she quit Scope in May and will finish this month.
“I did not say I had a conflict of interest, because should I be the mayor, I will no longer be working for Scope
Resources and will therefore have no conflict of interest.”
She reiterated her husband Peter Laurenson is council regulatory body Lakes Environmental’s building boss.
“He’s done that for the three years I’ve been a councillor, it was checked off by council, via the Office of the Auditor General, who said there was no conflict,” Van Uden says.
Referring to Scott, Hayes said: “Michael has been on record as supporting the sale of the airport up to 49.99 [per cent]. He’s fudging a little bit on it now.”
Roading inspector Scott says he can’t remember supporting further airport share sales but “felt sorry” for Van Uden at Sunday’s meeting.
“The campaign so far has been above board. There was no need to start throwing mud so late in the piece.”
Van Uden says she was “surprised” by Hayes’ remarks.
“I responded on the night and the issue finished. I’m not going to run a campaign that way.”
She won’t be drawn on the timing of Hayes’ trip.
“It’s up to the individual to make up their own minds about what they think.”
Scott: “Maybe he could have held off, but it’s been planned for a while. You’ve got to have a personal life.”
Hayes says he planned the trip with wife Ngaire, who’s battled cancer, in February.
“At the time I had no intention of standing for the mayoralty,” Hayes says.
“I could have reconsidered but the money that had been pre-paid, that would have been a total loss and I don’t think that’s financially prudent.”