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Former Queenstown Lakes District Council and Dunedin City Council senior manager Ruth Stokes was yesterday named the new Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive, and will begin the role on Monday.
Latterly, Ms Stokes has been a director of ZQN.7 Ltd, a company she owns with her husband, Anthony.
Yesterday the Otago Daily Times reported Ms Stokes and another former council manager, Jendi Paterson, had been contracted by the council as consultants through ZQN.7 to work on bylaws and projects between March 2018 and May last year.
However, Ms Stokes told the ODT yesterday she had not worked as a consultant for the council for at least a year.
ZQN.7 had enabled her consultancy work, but was also used for the Stokes’ business activity, which included a four-apartment commercial development in Queenstown’s CBD.
"That’s just something we’re plugging away at under our own steam.
"We’re certainly committed to Queenstown and see Queenstown’s future potential."
While she would be employed full-time by the chamber, its board was happy for her to continue some of her governance roles, specifically, on Kainga Ora’s construction programme advisory panel and as a member of New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium rebuild steering panel.
"The majority of my focus ... is the chamber, but I am keen to do additional governance roles and I’m fortunate the chamber supports me in that."
Ms Stokes said the connections she had made through her governance work was a strength she would bring to her new role.
Having worked across the country with the government and large sectors, including construction, she said it had become clear Queenstown "punches well above its weight".
However, there were opportunities to bring the different threads of the resort’s business sector together and maintain, or create, connections across New Zealand.
"We are a town of small businesses and I know how tough it is for people to try to navigate the complexities — what funding’s available, what’s happening in regulatory changes, what’s happening in government policy, what’s happening in other parts of the country that we can leverage off.
"There’s a lot of work happening around the country and it’s just making sure that we’re connected into everything that we need to be.
"This is a real window of opportunity for us in order to attract investment and redevelop so that we are an attractive place for people to live and want to visit."
While the new role would be a big change, it was also a positive one, she said.
"Being able to work with like-minded people who are heading in the same direction and also being able to be home, with my family, it’s all ticks in the boxes for me."