Who will be our "business friendly" mayoral candidates?

by Peter Newport - Apr 24, 2022

Main Image: (Clockwise from top left) Werner Murray, Bridget Legnavsky, Ruth Stokes, Mark Quickfall, Josie Spillane, Glyn Lewers, Celia Crosbie, Stephen England-Hall,


Whether we like it or not, the way Queenstown Wānaka and Cromwell are evolving has produced a division between two key groups – politely we would label them liberal and conservative, less politely we might be tempted to use the haves and the have nots – or even the rich and the poor.

Let’s settle on “business friendly” as opposed to “pro equality/environment.” Obviously, labels are dangerous things – but so is local politics. The current system forces us all into something of a “red vs blue” choice – at least for mayor. It's not a great system, but hey, we are stuck with it for the time being at least.

In Jon Mitchell we have a credible and electable QLDC liberal candidate – he’s already set out his stall in favour of council transparency, an end to “jobs for mates” procurement breaches, setting up more controls on growth, more public transport support and an independent economic development agency.

But let’s not underestimate the strength (and money) of the existing business power base in Queenstown/Wānaka and the inertia in Cromwell where “Mayor Tim” seems like a safe bet with no rocking of the local boat.

The challenge for a conservative/business focussed mayoral candidate in Queenstown and Wānaka will be to sway middle of the road voters who want growth and business success but also some social licence and positive change around transparency and fairness in local government.

Here’s our ever so slightly tongue in cheek selection of possible candidates who could represent the more conservative end of town as QLDC and CODC Mayor. We’ve left out Mayor Tim as he’s already in office. We suspect the actual candidates for QLDC and CODC will be someone else - a surprise - but who knows?

Queenstown. QLDC.

Mark Quickfall. A big hitter in the tourism space, but he’s shown a sensitivity to social values and is a good communicator. Free of any direct connections to recent scandals around multimillion dollar handouts.

Ruth Stokes. Our theory is that Stokes was sponsored into the CEO job at the Chamber of Commerce as a springboard to the mayoralty. She’s female and younger than the traditional “mayoral” image. However, her now infamous “closed by Friday” PR fiasco, and ongoing fallout from ZQN7 probably make her a too risky candidate for the Right.

Glyn Lewers. Previously anti-airport growth but since being elected he’s become something of a “Boult yes man”, supporting the current mayor in every twist and turn of local politics. We would not be surprised if Glyn is being groomed to be Mayor, at least by those currently in power.

Stephen England-Hall. The smart and well-connected boss of the Real Group – formerly Wayfare and Real Journeys. Previously head of Tourism NZ. It seems a safe bet that he was involved in the recent re-structure that saw mayor Boult out of the Chair, plus he’s sensitive to the need for tourism to have a strong social licence. His strongest trait might be a ruthlessness in the business world, but that could be a negative in running for mayor – plus he's already got a job.

Wānaka. QLDC

Bridget Legnavsky. Bridget has always represented a very human, even kind, face of big business in her Cardrona leadership roles – and her son made a strong showing at the Winter Olympics. She’s very electable and Wānaka is desperate to have the QLDC mayor based on their side of the hill. Out of all the QLDC “right wing” possibles, Bridget Legnavsky would be our top pick.

Celia Crosbie. We include Celia purely because she is conservative, business friendly, thick skinned and ambitious. However, she’s been a staunch Boult supporter throughout the bruising Wānaka airport expansion debate – a position that has made her unpopular in many quarters.

Cromwell. CODC.

Werner Murray. He’s a former QLDC planner who currently sits on the Cromwell Community Board. Even though he has conservative credentials he also has his fair share of liberal values and his very personable. Electable and solid – he could give Sir Tim a run for his money if Cromwell ever decides to go for a more contemporary mayor with less ego.

Josie Spillane. CEO at Highlands, Josie is already an experienced leader in marketing, tourism, sport, fundraising, sales and hospitality. She’s got what it takes should she ever decide to take a step into local politics. Plus her election would instantly change the image of Cromwell to something a bit more up to date.

Here's our coverage of suggestions from the community.  Rod Drury could be an outside bet for QLDC, but why would he want all of that pressure? 

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