New Queenstown housing crisis expert missing in action

by Peter Newport - Sep 28, 2023

Her name is Emily – but that’s all we know. Emily has been hired by the Queenstown Lakes District Council as its housing officer or 'Strategic Planner: Housing', according to the official job description.

This new role is central to the council’s official response to the current worker accommodation crisis. 

But all attempts by Crux to meet with Emily and get her views on the challenges ahead have been met by blank refusals from council managers.

This is in spite of her official job description including the following requirement: “Cultivate a professional and positive image for QLDC with the media, the community and development community".

After being refused a number of times Crux made a formal complaint highlighting the fact that we could not get access to the new housing officer, even weeks after her job started.

Instead the council has offered to provide replies to written questions, an offer that is expected to result in words from the communications team and senior managers but not necessarily from Emily herself. QLDC has refused to supply Emily's full name, any of her resume background or her salary/pay range.

Crux has been pushing for many years to get direct access to key council managers and staff rather than the carefully structured replies we get from a council media spokesperson. The Office of the Ombudsman has this week launched an investigation into this issue with the QLDC.

Here’s the reply in full to our council complaint from acting QLDC chief executive Stewart Burns.

“I am writing in response to your email complaint received on Monday 18 September which was detailed as follows, 'we’d like to make a formal complaint about QLDC not giving media access to senior managers for media interviews - and denying access to your new Housing Officer'

“I have discussed your concerns with the communications team and, with particular regard to the Housing Officer, the Strategy and Policy team. I have been advised that when any media make requests for interviews these are passed on to the relevant operational team by the media advisor or other communications team member handling the request. It is the decision of the operational team to accept or decline the request.

“It is not the case that any individual or team is 'not giving media access' rather that it is the choice, for example due to workload or other operational priorities, of the individual officer or team subject to the request. Where an interview is declined, I understand the standard practice is to offer a written response to questions provided. I have also been advised that in the specific instance of the Housing Officer this was offered to you as an alternative, and that this is still available to you should you wish to follow up via the communications team.

“QLDC remains committed to a positive engagement with all media but must balance this with the need to prioritise operational commitments in providing essential services to the wider community. I trust that this addresses your concern and confirms how interview requests are managed within QLDC.”

 - Stewart Burns Acting Chief Executive, QLDC, September 26, 2023.

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