QLDC annual report: staff salary rises and debt increases

by Peter Newport - Oct 19, 2023

Councillors have accepted an annual report for the Queenstown Lakes District today that saw capital expenditure reach a record annual figure of $180 million and the number of council staff earning over $160,000 a year double.

The capital expenditure has been funded from debt and includes controversial projects including Lakeview and Stage 1 of the Arterial Road.

Against this background another 63 staff have been hired in the last 12 months by the council taking their total payroll to 643 after being down around the 300 level only a few years ago.

Staff on higher salaries have almost doubled in some pay bands over the past year

The number of staff being paid over $160,000 a year has gone from six to thirteen. An additional 14 managers are earning between $180,000 and $360,000 – up from nine last year.

CEO Mike Theelen, who recently was awarded an 8% pay increase to $415,000, wrote an introduction to the annual plan that presented a positive picture of community events, parks and new roads but with little to no mention of rising debts, budget blowouts, the accounting for $163 million of bed tax revenue that will almost certainly need to be reversed and the problematic Lakeview and Arterial road projects.

However, a chart deep in the 180 page document painted a stark picture of the council’s finances.

The annual plan notes big increases in capital expenditure and debt - plus high rates levels

Crux will carry detail of expected future council cutbacks when those decisions are made, but so far there’s no indication of any intention to make staffing cuts or cancel capital projects, with the preference so far being to simply postpone projects until funding becomes available.


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