Interruptions and laughter as six vie for Queenstown Lakes mayoralty

9:33 am on 15 September 2022
Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult

The Queenstown Lakes mayoralty is wide open with incumbent Jim Boult stepping down at October's local elections. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

A walkout and a clash over straw polling kicked off a lively debate as mayoral hopefuls auditioned for Queenstown's business community last night.

The Queenstown Lakes mayoralty is wide open with incumbent Jim Boult stepping down at October's local elections.

Those hoping to lead New Zealand's fastest-growing district gave their pitches at the event hosted by the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce.

It had barely got under way when perennial candidate Al Angus brought up three waters reform and attempted to conduct a straw poll.

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Al Angus. Photo: Supplied

"I'm standing because I'm vehemently against the three waters and we really need to just stop that. I've paid for it for 40-odd years and I don't want it stolen off me," Angus said, opening his introduction.

"Is there anybody else here that's against the three waters take-over - put your hand up."

MC Richie Heap tried to intervene and guide Angus back to letting the audience know a bit about himself.

"So what's your vision Al for Queenstown," Heap asked.

"No, hold on a minute, I just want to see what's going on here. I didn't interrupt you," Angus responded.

"OK, well I said at the start I will interrupt you," Heap said.

In a fit of pique Angus handed back the microphone.

But soon after #MeToo whistleblower Olivia Wensley - who spoke out about inappropriate behaviour in the legal profession in the wake of the Russell McVeagh scandal - asked for a show of hands in a straw poll on tourism.

Heap let the brief aside go and, as a result, five minutes later Angus stormed out after being questioned on what charitable causes he was involved in.

"I don't do charity, I do humanity. I've just got this term charity-wash that goes in my head. A lot of people do it for the reflective adoration, I don't like it. I think it removes the dignity from the people that are getting it," Angus said.

"Also, Olivia was allowed to poll the audience and you stopped me, so," Angus said putting down the microphone and walking out.

Only 20 minutes in and six candidates were down to five.

Olivia Wensley. Photo:

While Wensley avoided drawing fire over her impromptu polling, she knew attacks over the Queenstown Lakes District Council's leaky homes scandal were on their way.

"So you would have heard about my father-in-law, he used to be a property developer 20 years ago. I was 17 when he built a leaky building, nothing to do with me so I want to clear that up," she said.

Stuff reported earlier this week that ratepayers faced an annual $300 rates hike to cover the council's costs related to her father-in-law Ross Wensley's developments.

The only sitting councillor seeking the role, Glyn Lewers, laid into her over the fiasco.

"The role of a mayor is to lead, to develop the annual plan, the long-term plan, the policies and the budgets - we have a very conflicted candidate here that will not be able to participate in 75 percent of those things. From my point of view, that is untenable, that candidate cannot discharge her duties as mayor."

While conflicts of interest were on the table, Jon Mitchell also wanted to come clean.

"I'm not aware of any actual conflicts of interest, but there's one people do talk about - secret of the century, that I ran for Labour back in 2020. I have no association with the Labour Party now and I have been a member of the National Party Queenstown branch in the past."

Another who previously ran for election in 2020 was Daniel Shand.

He unsuccessfully stood as an independent on a platform of "I don't know anything about politics, but I'll give it a go".

Shand offered little in the way of policy last night but certainly generated the most laughs.

When pressed as to how he would increase communication between the council and public, Shand offered a novel solution: "Take all the doors off the building," he said to laughter and applause.

"It should be open to everybody," Shand added.

Business owner Neeta Shetty rounded out the field of six.

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