Queenstown Lakes District Council's chief executive Adam
Feeley. Photo by Christina McDonald.
A year after he took over the chief executive's role at
the Queenstown Lakes District Council, Adam Feeley jokes that
he is not expecting Christmas cards from everyone in the
When asked what he is most proud of achieving in his first
year, the chief executive says ''surviving'' with a knowing
laugh, before elaborating.
''When you look back on the year, we have amalgamated two
CCOs [council-controlled organisations], we have had an
organisational review in which 100 odd staff have been made
redundant, we have had an election and 50% of the councillors
''Just surviving in itself is an achievement.''
Mr Feeley came to the council in October 2012 to replace
former chief executive Debra Lawson, who resigned.
He left his role heading the Serious Fraud Office less than
three years into a five-year contract to take up the senior
management role at the council in one of New Zealand's
After a week in the job, he sat in his office, with his
mountain bike leaning against a bookcase, and told the
Otago Daily Times learning about what the council does
day to day was eye-opening.
A year on he is still bringing the mountain bike in and this
time he makes the Christmas card reference - ''but that's
part of the job'' - before going on to discuss the
controversial organisational review in which the council
slimmed down to 195 fulltime equivalent positions from 265.
''It's not easy making tough decisions. It's not easy saying
`this part of the organisation is going to go from 10 to five
The review and the resulting job losses were the consequence
of ''some poor decision-making over the last five to 10
years'', in which resources had been allowed to ''creep
upward'' and relationships between council and some of the
people or companies it dealt with could be described as
''cosy''.`Starting to challenge those relationships doesn't
make you popular.''
He said the council was going through the process of
re-tendering for its professional services, for example banks
and lawyers, for price and quality.
''It's my money I'm spending because I'm a ratepayer, but
it's also everyone else's money, too. You have got to treat
it as your own money so if that means 'sorry you're not doing
a good enough job', then so be it.''
The cost of running the district was rising and the two
options available were either to increase rates or attract
''There are huge challenges facing us. Our infrastructure is
relatively fragile, given the pressures placed on it, and we
will either fund this by reducing costs or increasing
He was keen to attract more economic growth to Queenstown
Lakes - this could mean children might stay in the towns if
there were more opportunities.
He said that to do this, out-of-town economists could hold
the answer, and defended accepting advice from out of
towners: ''it's incredibly parochial to say you can't learn
from some of the best minds in the country''.
The organisational review, led by former Local Government NZ
and Auckland Regional Council chief executive Peter Winder,
began in February and is now complete. Mr Feeley said change
could very well be occurring each year at the council, though
it was unlikely to be at this year's level.
Although a ''very reluctant planner'', Mr Feeley said he had
no intention of leaving ''any time soon''.
''I spent 30 years planning to come here. I'm not going to
leave after 30 minutes.''