Community supports QLDC staff/cost reductions plus CEO departure in survey

by Peter Newport - Mar 11, 2024

A Crux survey of readers in response to the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s 15 percent satisfaction rating is suggesting wide ranging change is necessary to produce both cultural and financial improvements.

The survey was run over the weekend of March 9 and 10 with 386 responses and 263 comments. The full survey results have been sent to mayor Glyn Lewers and council chief executive Mike Theelen for their responses.

Crux will publish those responses in full when received later this week.

Some of the key points from the survey are:

  • 59 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed to a ‘great extent' of staff reductions
  • 87 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed to all non-core construction projects being stopped
  • 83 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that elected members should employ a new chief executive
  • 72 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that there are fundamental problems at the QLDC and outside commissioners should be brought in
  • 92 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the council should stop property projects involving risk or speculation

The full survey and all comments can be read here.

Here are the results and some selected comments:

Q1 Which of the following QLDC measures would you support to reduce debt and control rate rises? Rank statements based on what you agree with.

Q2 What measures do you think would most likely increase community confidence/trust in QLDC from the current low level of 15 percent? Rank statements based on what you agree with.


Selected comments:

"I will be asking future council candidates only two questions: Are you truly serious about serving, representing and being totally answerable to all those who live, work and invest in this community? and: Are you willing to ask questions and keep asking questions, no matter how awkward or inconvenient, of the QLDC CEO and staff? I believe there are people within the QLDC who behave with integrity and a sense of serving their community but I also know how hard it can be to stand up against the bullying and control freakery of powerful individuals. We just can't afford to continue allowing that kind of culture to warp and wreck our community."

"Stick to the core community essentials. We should never have been put in a 3rd world situation to boil our water like the recent event. Forget about marketing the place until we have perfected the basics, then market and utilise the fresh income (tourism) and create a bed tax/airport tax to maintain these services. User pays but the rate payers are getting tired…."

"This council is a joke. The CEO earns $450,000 while people live in cars and community has no clean drinking water the basic right of a human being. There is not enough sewage infrastructure look at Longview in Hāwea where 3 sewage trucks have to collect sewage EVERY DAY and who pays for this? Hardworking rate payers!!! The audacity of this CEO to give himself a pay rise it’s sickening…People in this community have to stand up and march on the roads like what they do in Europe! This council has to quit and especially the ceo and his corrupt team. And replace it with hardworking people who care about the people in this community. It’s time to stand up."

"Please make cuts to the QLDC departments. Please DO NOT raise rates again, it has ridiculously risen in last few years. As a single mum trying to live and work here it is really hard to pay, I am not even sure where all the money is going. The car parking in Queenstown is ridiculous, QLDC have taken away so much downtown parking. And when I am still waiting for a water toby at my house for over 6 months. I just do not see the value in the extra I am currently paying. It is very frustrating living within this QLDC."

"QLDC have proved they are inept to run this district. If this was a company everybody would have been fired and replaced by now due to poor management which has cost the company millions of dollars so I’m not sure how they are getting away with it. We need fresh water and better sewage infrastructure. It’s a basic right which is being ignored. My kids should not have to drink unsafe water while the QLDC build a swanky new office. They are dishonest, corrupt, disgusting human beings with no values or compassion and shouldn’t be anywhere near a government role running a district."

"There needs to be accountability within the staff of the QLDC and this includes the CEO and all management. Doesn’t seem to be any - so a full strategic review appears like a sensible approach. Focussing on 4-5 key areas which they can make change to within a 2-3 year period; identifying longer term objectives for the 5-10 year plan. It all seems to get lost in terms of what the main key focus is. Staff cuts should only be done on the basis it doesn’t mean any more outsourcing to consultants. There should be a review of work sent to consultants and how to change this. There needs to be a complete culture change where the whole of staff understand who their client is (us, the ratepayers) and that they need to focus back on the core fundamentals of looking after their customer. Key things accountability and understanding who their customer is would be a bloody good start!"

"Too many managers. Too many unnecessary projects that are non essential while core services are managed poorly. The executive leadership team are doing want they want without caring what the public need. Too many do-overs of poorly run or planned projects. Wasteful spending. No community engagement or community trust. They are pushing through projects that people DO NOT WANT."

"The CEO is accountable for his teams poor performance. It is amazing what a change of leadership can bring. Please right size the organization and HEAVILY reduce spending on consultants. It is not the $75k per year employee that is causing the problems. It is the CEO and the endless stream of consultants that we are paying for. Top dollar, no accountability!"

"Return the focus to professionally managing the core duties of a council. The QLDC is the Queenstown Lakes District COUNCIL, not a personal investment fund for council employees."

"Get rid of CEO and all senior management who are shown to be lying to the public, ie procurement rules and the lies told and perpetuated by the CEO and his team. Introduce a policy and culture of honest and transparent reporting. Listen to the community, not just developers and big businesses."

"The current CEO does not well represent the community and rate payers. He has his own agenda and thinks he's above everyone his beliefs are seriously misaligned. He needs to open the books to mean-full scrutinisation for the public to consider his position. We as ratepayers need open frank discussion and transparency on operations of our community owned council operations. A fish rots from the head. Our head of council has long past died. Time for change and potentially the mayor also. This council is seriously out of step with our community. We need change in council or govt to appoint a stat management team much like Tauranga did."

"If QLDC were a business based on key performance measures and relationship issues with residents the CEO would be gone, the senior leadership team would be gone, some of the 'key' vanity projects would be cancelled, and there would be significant improvements in transparency and community involvement. I know that councils around the country are struggling for various reasons, but for our Mayor to say in a workshop that the 15 percent approval rating (which is abysmal) stems from 'domestic and international' factors just reeks of a total lack of accountability - which is part of the problem. My view is that the issues are deep, the culture at QLDC is toxic, and the leadership is compromised and broken."

"There are fundamental flaws in the current law that allow strong CEO’s to exercise way too much power in the face of weak councillors. These problems are not unique to QLDC. I think the worsening financial situation will likely lead to commissioners being appointed but they will need to be supported by skilled staff. Certainly the CEO and some other senior managers will need to move on but QLDC is a complex entity and does need to retain some good people."

"15 percent is absurdly low and yet the mayor and councillors downplay it and offer spurious reasons it has happened. They are sadly out of touch. There needs a total culture change within the QLDC and that can only start at the top. The councillors need to take more control of their one employee, the CEO."

View the complete survey and all comments here.

Read more: Council glosses over 15 percent community satisfaction rating


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