Ruth Stokes: $32,000 a month from cancelled Auckland rail project

by Peter Newport - Nov 30, 2023

One of the priority action points confirmed by the new coalition government yesterday (November 29) is the cancellation of the $14.6 billion Auckland light rail project.

Queenstown ZQN7 consultant Ruth Stokes, who has already informed Auckland Light Rail (ALR) that she carries out work for other consulting projects while working for them, has been paid an average of $32,000 a month since she started there in August 2022.

Today (November 30) ALR confirmed to Crux that Mrs Stokes was still “engaged to work" with them. 

In an official information request ALR told Crux earlier this year that Mrs Stokes had declared the major work she is currently doing with fellow Queenstown “super consultant” Bruce Robertson on the Yarrow Stadium project in New Plymouth, currently running $30 million over budget.

Between August 2022 and May 2023 ALR paid Mrs Stokes’ ZQN Ltd a total of $329,000 excluding GST equating to an average of more than $800 per day. ALR has told Crux that there is no minimum requirement for Mrs Stokes to be in the ALR Auckland offices saying, “It is common practice for consultants to work remotely to ensure that location does not preclude any specialist skills required”.

ALR told Crux that the ZQN7 contract went onto an undisclosed fixed fee basis at the start of 2023, but based on the amount disclosed to May 2023, the pro-rata payment would total close to $600,000 over 18 months for work that is not full time.

In effect, this work is part time given the declared Yarrow Stadium work where the Taranaki Regional Council has told Crux Mrs Stokes has been employed since 2019. ALR told Crux “There is a contract cap of 40 hours a week. This is not a minimum requirement."

Both the Yarrow Stadium and ALR projects allow Mrs Stokes to work from home in Queenstown.

Mrs Stokes was previously the “full time” chief executive of the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce while carrying out multiple consulting contracts elsewhere in the country. Her company ZQN7 Ltd was famously paid more than $600,000 in 2018/19 by the Queenstown Lakes District Council for three bylaw reviews with that work avoiding the council’s own procurement rules, in spite of QLDC chief executive Mike Theelen telling Crux that the rules had been followed.

Read more: Inside the cashed up world of the Queenstown super-consultants

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