Councillor: Elected members leaderless as mayor joins forces with CEO

by Peter Newport - Jul 05, 2024

Queenstown Lakes District councillor Niki Gladding has described a split between elected members and both the mayor and the council chief executive, where the two sides don't meet or talk.

In the latest episode of the Crux podcast Councillor Gladding details how mayor Glyn Lewers has told elected members that they are "on their own" and effectively declared that he is not their leader.

"A turning point for councillors was when we realised what's been happening for the last year and a half.  We realised it's up to us to figure out how we operate as a council without a leader."

Councillor Gladding also told Crux senior managers at the Queenstown Lakes District Council have engineered a culture where community consultation is a box ticking exercise that "does not comply with the letter or the intent of the Local Government Act".

She says the managers - the executive leadership team or ELT - are obsessive "almost at any cost" about delivering projects that are linked to the Queenstown Town Centre Masterplan that Arrowtown consultants Rationale produced. 

The masterplan includes three arterial road stages, a CBD cosmetic upgrade that removes cars from the town centre, a new council HQ (Project Manawa) and aspects of the Lakeview project. The combined cost of these projects now exceeds $300 million with stage one of the arterial road project blowing out to $128 million and arguably serving no clear purpose. It's been dubbed the 'road to nowhere' and is only 670 metres long. 

"It's doubtful the extent to which councillors have agreed to these masterplan projects. It's very carefully managed consultation. And the price of those (masterplan) things just keeps going up and up and other things across the district keep getting constantly deferred.

"We've got a lot of lawyers and a lot of planners in our community. There's a lot of smart people out there who can see that something is not quite right about this. And of course, it's really starting to hit in terms of rates, we've obviously hit our debt limits now there's no money to do other things."

Listen to the full interview with Niki Gladding here, along with our regular review of the week's top stories

Episode 7 Niki Gladding and top stories

Episode 8 Niki Gladding full interview 




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