Local mayoral candidate Olivia Wensley’s doubling down on her bold claim she was behind the government setting up a $20 million Queenstown-Lakes diversification fund.
Mountain Scene spoke with Wensley this week to better understand some statements she’s made during her recent election campaigning.
Regarding the diversification fund claim, she says she got the ball rolling, as Startup Queenstown Lakes (SQL) chief executive, by writing a paper for NZ Trade & Enterprise two-and-a-half years ago.
‘‘I was the catalyst for getting it going but there are other people involved, obviously’’, she says, citing the council’s economic development unit which SQL comes under.
‘‘I’ve been in [Economic & Regional Development Minister Stuart] Nash’s office multiple times, getting it across the line.
‘‘I think [economic] diversification is more important than anything, and I’m the only [mayoral] candidate that’s got the experience doing it, I’m actually walking the walk.’’
She also says she’s behind ‘‘100s of million of dollars’’ of investors’ capital coming into the area.
‘‘I’ve signed an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] for one of them … a $280m project, it’s going to create literally thousands of jobs, it’s massive.’’
That’s earmarked for a film studio, she reveals in this week’s mayoral candidates’ Q&A.
Wensley says she’s also involved with a $20m virtual production studio at Queenstown’s Remarkables Park.
‘‘I think we should be getting 100s of millions each year into our region, and we can.
‘‘We can have higher-productivity jobs [than tourism] by truly diversifying.’’
‘And walking the walk on affordable housing’
She believes she’s also ‘walking the walk’ in terms of affordable housing, through a company her husband Greg’s involved with along Queenstown’s Frankton Road.
Her election campaign nominator, local-based tech billionaire Rod Drury’s involved with land acquisition, but that’s all, she says.
‘‘We’ve bought three properties that we’ll turn into 40 titles, then sell them as a project.’’
Wensley, who confirms her husband’s also looking at land at Queenstown’s Ladies Mile, says the Frankton Rd properties came with two Airbnbs, which will be bowled in about two months.
She’s lately expressed her distaste for Airbnb, believing it affects housing affordability in ‘‘a negative way’’.
‘‘That’s how I realised, because we bought these properties and then we saw the figures of what they’ve been getting for Airbnbs, and I thought, ‘hold on, that’s not right’.’’
Ironically, Frankton Rd’s where her father-in-law’s Ross Wensley’s leaky apartment complexes were built — because his company went bust, council’s carrying the can in a $40m settlement over Oaks Club Resort.
As a result, it’s adding about $50 to every residential rate payers’ rates, with substantially more expected when a claim over the nearby Oaks Shores is settled.
‘‘I think it’s pretty unfair my name keeps getting mentioned in terms of that,’’ Olivia Wensley says.
‘‘The Shores was founded 20 years ago, I’ve been in town for 10 years, I haven’t even been to the property.
‘‘You know, you can’t help who you love, and you can’t choose your in-laws, so I think it’s really disappointing actually that’s being used by my competitors, ’cos I understand they’ve been making press releases.’’ [Scene’s unaware any of her competitors have issued a release on this topic.]
Wensley confirms if she’s mayor she’ll vacate the chambers if the issue is going to be discussed — ‘‘I’m a lawyer, I understand conflicts of interest — I’ve held the Law Society to account over conflicts of interest.’’
Wensley on ….
● Rumours billionaire Rod Drury’s bankrolling her campaign: ‘‘He gave me $2000, that’s all, he’s my biggest supporter, but I purposefully don’t want to take financial support from anyone that people could say, ‘oh, there’s vested interest there’.’’
● On rumours she’ll exceed her campaign spending limit: ‘‘That is hilarious, the people keep saying that, I’m a lawyer, I understand the statute, of course I’m not going to overspend.’’
● The whole reason I’m standing is: ‘‘I’m sick of the way the town has been run, I want to have in all my meeting agendas, the record of who I meet with. People are ready for a change, a lot of people are sick of a few families controlling this town, and they want some change, they want somebody that’s going to put the community first.’’