Ignite Wanaka - "Complete trust in Celia Crosbie."
There has been a lot of comment around the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the current QLDC airport consultation process. In particular, a blog published by the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce, Ignite Wanaka, involved board member Celia Crosbie making observations that were robustly challenged by other groups attending the same meeting. Mrs Crosbie was accused of characterising the meeting as involving "negativity and anger" and said that her input was "scoffed at" - when the other nine official participants had a different view of events. Mrs Crosbie has also described the current airport debate as "one of the ugliest I have seen in my time in Wanaka."
Crux invited Ignite Wanaka Chair Bridget Legnavsky to respond, asking if Mrs Crosbie would be asked to resign, and whether her own position as a senior manger of the Wayfare Group, chaired by Mayor Jim Boult, was a serious conflict of interest. Crux also noted payments from QLDC to Ignite Wanaka of around $79,875 in a recent set of accounts - a point that is addressed by Bridget in the following response. Crux thanks Bridget Legnavsky for taking the time to provide a comprehensive and thoughtful response.
"Ignite Wanaka is a membership funded organisation. We receive no ratepayer or council funding. Perhaps your comment about the chamber being partly ratepayer funded is confused with the funding received by the CUBE in the past. Post the Gigatown success the CUBE was formed and as an economic development project the CUBE received funding. This has since been passed over to SQL with their mandate to support economic growth and start up business across the region.
All members of the chamber executive are elected at the annual AGM. All executive positions are voluntary. Executive members must all be members in order to be eligible for election. To stand for election they need to be in a business and as such are generally owners or hold a senior position. With this international chamber structure there is no way to get around the fact that all members will have a personal business that they are involved in. Conflicts of interest then are always top of mind and carefully managed. The executive team is highly aware of the conflict of interest issue, and consciously keep checks on each other to ensure an appropriate focus on the job at hand. That job is to deliver value for our membership.
Celia was asked to represent Ignite Wanaka at this event. This was due to the fact that she has been following the airport saga since it all started. She knows most of the history and is current on the information and facts that are available. She is also in touch with the diverse thinking on this subject throughout the business community.
I note that Celia’s blog was largely a factual account of the meeting. This was to inform our membership of the process that is happening around the airport debate. Celia also discussed her interpretation of how it went, as well as how she felt during and after the process. That part is expressed as her individual opinion. I saw the main point of Celia’s blog as being about the importance of everyone having their say and highlighting that there will be differing opinions.
We all know that people will come out of any communication with differing interpretations, and that appears to me to be perfectly natural. These differing interpretations are how we form a full picture of any situation. As leaders, we should respect all interpretations, learn from those, and think about how that informs the path ahead. I do not believe we should tell someone that the way they feel, or their interpretation of a situation based on their personal feeling, is wrong simply because it doesn’t align with another viewpoint. I believe that we should highlight the various perspectives and invite everyone to consider all views. Building an inclusive, collaborative and progressive culture and community, I suggest, is the ultimate goal here.
I also suggest that it is important to publish Celia’s entire blog so people can see the full content of what she actually wrote, rather than parts pulled out that highlight her personal opinion.
I note that Celia never mentioned the meeting being ugly, as you have used in your headline. Celia referred to the whole airport debate being ugly which I took to refer to the debate that has being ongoing for some time.
With regard to your suggestion that Celia has misrepresented the situation, I respectfully disagree with that conclusion. As noted above the blog is part factual account and part personal opinion. I do not have any reason to infer that the factual account of the meeting is incorrect nor that her personal opinion is not honestly held.
I have worked on the chamber executive with Celia for many years now. During that time, she has always been honest, transparent, fair and professional. Her behaviour as an executive member is highly ethical and she is very clear on governance protocol as well as management of conflicts of interest. She is completely trusted by myself and the board and there does not appear to be any reason to question her integrity on her account of this meeting.
With regard to the inference that the Chamber is pro-airport and pro-growth. Our core competencies involve support (listening, nurturing and advocating on behalf of our members), People (Networking, connections, openness and inclusiveness) and Growth (Growth in capability, professional development and profit. Growing people as well as business’s). With this as our guide we will support economic growth for our business community. We want to see people in business succeed so that we can deliver high quality, world leading, experiences for us all, including our visitors and so that they can live a good life.
So yes we will support growth but like many agree this must be controlled and managed so that the “needs” around growth can be achieved as we go. Whether there is a developed Wanaka Airport or not is part of building the strategy for how our visitors and locals access our town as it grows. In terms of the airport debate we are neither against it or pro it at this stage. This is based on having a divided feeling in our membership as Kat accurately pointed out. Post this current engagement process we really hope to gain more direction from our business community on which solution to advocate for. We fully support the process that MartinJenkins is leading and are encouraging all of our members to have their own, personal, say.
There have been some great articles and really interesting perspectives on the airport, which I think is brilliant. From what I have seen so far I believe that many of us support a similar Wanaka vision. It would make a lot of sense to spend some time articulating what that actually is. This clarity would help us make decisions about what is the best solution for our airport."