Council candidates go head to head

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The divide between incumbents and council hopefuls appears to be growing, as the old guard highlights the need for consistency while new candidates hit out at the status quo.

A large crowd turned out for a Queenstown council candidates meeting hosted by the Kelvin Peninsula Community Association on Tuesday night.

It’s probably the most polished the candidates have appeared so far, showing how much they’ve settled their nerves over the course of the campaign.

John Glover focused on community, calling for “citizens’ council” to be established and entrusted with two per cent of the council’s funds to distribute.

Incumbents Craig Ferguson and Val Miller both highlighted the need for consistency, especially when a large chunk of the new council will consist of first-timers.

But their records were challenged when it came to the airport, unsurprisingly one of the biggest issues of the night.

Glover said it was the council’s job to outline what Queenstown Airport Corporation’s (QAC) job is.

“The airport is like a wayward child – it’s got no boundaries and it’s just doing what it thinks is best to please mum and dad.

“And it’s been getting some really, really mixed messages, so suddenly there’s been an outcry.”

Candidate AJ Mason said QAC had been acting simply as a company, rather than a council-controlled trading organisation that was required to take on community objectives.

“It’s not just a company that the council happens to own.”

Incumbent councillor John MacDonald urged caution, saying the council could go down the legal route and spend a lot of money, and still get nowhere.

“We’re trying to keep the communication going with the airport corporation to get the result we want.”

That result was no further extension of the airport noise boundaries.

He pointed out the current council had rejected the airport’s statement of intent twice already, and if the board did not listen to what the council wanted, “they won’t be the board”.

“At the end of the day, that’s where it’s going to go, but let’s not go there in a rush.”

Meanwhile, mayoral candidates Al Angus and Nik Kiddle reiterated their opposition to the current administration.

Angus said there was “no connection” between the council and residents.

“The community’s not getting listened to, we’re getting ignored more and more.”

Kiddle was questioned on his views on the council’s visitor levy proposal, which he has been vocally opposed to because it focused solely on accommodation providers.

He said he wanted a levy that was fairer and spread across the whole visitor industry, which he believed would also raise more money.

But candidate Peter Faul warned that tinkering with the levy now could mean it was scrapped entirely, and the council proposal was the simplest solution.

A potential showdown between mayor Jim Boult and candidate Niki Gladding did not eventuate, as Boult had another engagement and didn’t attend.

This week Gladding laid an official complaint against the mayor, alleging he has “failed to manage” his conflicts of interest.

The breaches, she says, included the requirement to uphold the law, register pecuniary interests, disclose conflicts, and ensure the council carried out “transparent decision-making processes and effective consultation”.

Boult, who is chairman of tourism group Wayfare, fired back that “in all substantive matters regarding any of the companies in the group, I have always declared an interest”.

A final Wakatipu ward candidates meeting was held in Frankton last night, and regional council candidates will meet at St John in Frankton at 7pm Sunday.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz