Score card: Mayor Glyn Lewers after 100 days
The first 100 days is an often-used benchmark to judge the performance of newly elected officials, so let’s check out how our new Queenstown Lakes mayor Glyn Lewers is going.
On the plus side, there are signs that Mayor Lewers may be finding a strong and impressive voice in tackling the housing/Airbnb crisis, the Otago Regional Council's running of Queenstown's public transport (or lack thereof) and the long running debate over our lack of a full spec local hospital.
His language has been clear and suggests a determination to get something done. Good work.
Of course, words are easy - we'll all be waiting to see what tangible actions follow, on things that sit within the council's control.
The mayor also has some work to do to restore faith in the council he heads.
However, most of the key indicators of whether the new mayor can lift the QLDC’s abysmal community trust ratings lie behind closed doors.
That trust rating, that has been in off-the cliff decline, has taken a beating from recent scandals including the labelling of QLDC leaders as “evasive and misleading” by the judge who examined the failed attempt to expand Wānaka’s airport. The Media Council also recently ruled in Crux’ favour by agreeing with us that the QLDC needed to “answer hard questions” and not cover up situations like the procurement abuse that involved tens of millions of dollars spent on “jobs for mates”.
And of course there's Lakeview.
March 8 is the crucial date when results from the QLDC’s most recent Quality of Life survey will tell us if community trust has improved or dropped further.
CEO Mike Theelen rather quaintly professes to not understanding why the QLDC trust rating is so low, suggesting it's more a general reflection of New Zealand society and Covid pressures.
The job of Mayor Lewers will be to convince the CEO and other members of the senior leadership team that they really do need to tell the truth and be transparent.
Former mayor Jim Boult told Crux way back in 2016 that he was going to “sort out” council managers using his extensive business experience. That did not end well, and from what we could see Mr Boult abandoned that mission within just a few weeks of getting his feet under the mayoral desk.
Mayor Lewers, however, already has one black mark against him even before getting access to the mayoral office, let alone the desk. He told Crux during the local election campaign that one of his mayoral election rivals was on a council list that named people who had a serious conflict of interest issue with the QLDC. It turned out that the list did not exist.
So, let’s hope that behind closed doors Mayor Lewers is having some very full and frank discussions with QLDC’s senior management team.
It’s fair to say that his own mayoral term is likely to be a bit of nightmare unless he can bring these wily, well-rewarded senior managers, including the CEO, under full democratic, ratepayer-elected control.