New mayor pushes up his sleeves

Election celebration: The Boult family, son James (left) and parents Karen and Jim, celebrate Jim’s election to the Queenstown Lakes mayoralty at their Lake Hayes home on Saturday. Absent is Victoria, who is studying at the University of Sydney. PICTURE: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Jim Boult is hitting the ground running.

Queenstown Lakes’ new mayor will meet council chief executive Mike Theelen today to “address some issues” and wants to informally meet councillors this week.

He has been trusted with leading the resort through huge issues — unaffordable housing, a small community paying for infrastructure used by millions of tourists, traffic congestion and relatively expensive public transport.

Finding a way through will involve navigating a veritable minefield of central government relationships and overlapping responsibilities, including the Otago Regional Council on water quality, New Zealand Transport Agency on highways and applications to the likes of a central government fund for tourism infrastructure.

Sitting in the study of his Lake Hayes house on Saturday afternoon, Mr Boult set high goals for his three-year term.

“I’ll be disappointed in myself if at the end of three years I haven’t achieved some fixes around traffic and transport, I haven’t made progress on a really good public transport system, I haven’t given a very clear vision for the future of our district as a whole, if I haven’t, working with other agencies, found some fixes for water quality issues, and I would like to hope that we have addressed the affordability issues for ordinary families living in this district, particularly around home ownership costs.”

Asked if that was a lot to tackle in three years, he replied in his job as Christchurch International Airport’s chief executive, he built a new terminal while there were 13,000 earthquakes and 40 million people walked through the terminal.

“No-one got hurt and no flights were late. I want to adopt the same mentality in working with council.”

While praising the last council for financial prudence, Mr Boult was frustrated by several issues — progress on easing traffic congestion around Frankton and emerging water quality problems in lakes such as Wanaka, Wakatipu and Lake Hayes.

He added, “A whole lot of those issues that we’ve been facing as a community, like traffic and transport, let’s just get stuck into it and see what we can do.

“Maybe it’s easy for me to say coming into this, because I’m new, but I don’t intend to get bogged in bureaucratic process.”

He wanted the council to become “can do” rather than “why we can’t do”.

“I know council have a requirement to do certain things in a certain way, but I think we can get faster progress than we’ve had in the past.”

Mr Boult confirmed he made a formal police complaint about an alleged campaign against him, the end of a strange election campaign he described as “challenging” for him and his family.

“As far as I’m concerned, the matter is now in the hands of the police.”

Rivals made much of the collapse of Stonewood Homes New Zealand Ltd, a company Mr Boult resigned from as executive chairman weeks before it went into receivership.

He repeated on Saturday that he welcomed the Stonewood Homes liquidator’s report.

“I am very confident that I did everything I should do as a director of that company and I don’t see that having any effect on my position as mayor.”

Second-place-getter Lyal Cocks, the former deputy mayor, who got fewer than half the votes of Mr Boult, said in an emailed statement yesterday he was disappointed “but very proud of the significant contribution and achievements I have made to the district as an elected member over the past 12 years”.

“The previous council has left a sound platform for the new council to build on and progress.”

Jim Boult on …

Outgoing mayor Vanessa van Uden

“What she has achieved is a financially very strong council and she should be congratulated on that.”

The mayoral campaign

“I feel like it has been a challenging campaign. I said right at the start I was not interested in personal issues, I was only interested in issues that affect our community — and maybe the voting public have recognised that.”

A convention centre

“I don’t support any money going into a ratepayer-funded convention centre. We came through the GFC when everybody wanted a convention centre because business was down.”

On a second term

“I’m totally open-minded. In a couple of years’ time I’ll see what progress I’ve made. I’ll be my best critic and judge whether I’m making the progress I need to make.”

Otago Daily Times