Q'town Chamber of Commerce Chair defends Stokes' CEO job

by Peter Newport - Jan 26, 2021

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Chair Craig Douglas has defended the appointment of ZQN7's Ruth Stokes as the Chamber's new CEO.

"The Chamber Board is confident that Ruth will do an excellent job leading the Chamber and representing the interests of member businesses" Mr Douglas told Crux this afternoon.

Chamber of Commerce Chair Craig Douglas

Mrs Stokes is a director of consultancy ZQN7 Ltd that is the focus of the current investigation being run by QLDC's CEO Mike Theelen into whether Mrs Stokes and her colleague Jendi Paterson were hired in compliance with the council's procurement policy and guidelines. The combined bylaw review project work totalled $630,000 in less than two years between 2018 and 2020.

The investigation, or review as QLDC is currently calling it, was instigated by Mayor Jim Boult.

The appointment of Ruth Stokes as Chamber CEO came as a surprise to many not only because of the ZQN7 connection but becasue the Chamber's previous CEO, Anna Mickell, left quite suddenly at the onset of Covid 19 due to a massive collapse in the Chamber's revenue. 

Now Chair Craig Douglas says the Chamber's finances have improved to be "stronger than forecast" and that Mrs Stokes has been appointed on a full time basis.

Crux asked Mr Douglas what the recruitment process was for the CEO role.

Former Chamber of Commerce CEO Anna Mickell - she left just weeks after the outbreak of Covid 19.

"A reputable recruitment agency with national coverage was engaged to advertise the role, accept applications, and provide a short list of suitable applicants to a subcommittee of the Chamber Board.  The subcommittee made the final decision after the full board were informed of the subcommittee’s preference."

Mr Douglas would not disclose the salary and benefits package given to Mrs Stokes, but it seems likely to be less than the $1 million earned by ZQN7 Ltd in just 48 months of local council contracting between 2018 and 2020. It is not clear why Mrs Stokes has decided to cease working for ZQN7 Ltd. She remains a director of the company along with her husband Antony.

Mrs Stokes also worked for Kiwibuild and Wellington consultancy group RDC during 2018 - 2020.

Another recent arrival at the Chamber of Commerce is former National MP Hamish Walker who was forced to resign from parliament last year due to his leaking to the media of confidential Covid 19 patient details.  Mr Walker is now a Chamber Board member. Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, said at the time that "there was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party."

Mr Walker now works as a Queenstown real estate agent.

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux