Vanessa Van Uden
Five years ago, the Queenstown Lakes District Council was
spending more than $17 million annually on consultants.
Last year, the figure plunged to just over $3 million.
Mayor Vanessa Van Uden said since the 2008-09 financial year
the council had taken on more engineering staff - ''and I
know that seems a bit strange given the organisational
review'' - but their combined salaries were nowhere near the
$14 million difference.
The figures were obtained by the Otago Daily Times under the
Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
A subsequent request for information asking the additional
amount the council paid in salaries to the extra engineering
staff, employed since the 2008-09 financial year, revealed
the ''total additional amount paid to engineers employed by
the council in the period 2009-10 until 2012-13 is
When asked why the amount spent on consultants had dropped so
significantly, Ms van Uden said, five years ago there had
been far too many consultants used when they were not needed.
Consultants were being asked to ''come up with solutions that
an engineer on staff should have been able to do''.
However, she stressed it was not a case of ''consultants
ripping off the council'', it was about how the council was
The ''big drops'' during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 years for
engineering consultants reflected the employment of more
''My take on it ... [is] we are a whole lot more careful
about what goes to consultants now.''
The council was using consultants for roading and water
projects, the district plan review and the proposed
convention centre, along with other matters.
Ms van Uden said there was ''a place for consultants'',
adding it did not make sense to have people with extreme
expertise in-house on a permanent salary.
An organisational review announced at the end of 2012
resulted in the council slimming down to 195 fulltime
equivalent staff positions from 265.
Ms van Uden, in her second term as mayor, had campaigned to
reduce spending on consultants ahead of the 2010 election.
Contemplating the savings, she said, ''I can't pretend I'm
not happy'', but added the situation required ongoing effort