CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF/Waikato Times
The leadership program took place at the five-star Millbrook Resort in Queenstown.
New Plymouth District Council boss Craig Stevenson alone accounted for three-quarters of the executive management team’s annual training budget in the last half of 2021.
Figures released by New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) on Thursday showed the eight-person management team had a professional development budget of $40,000.
The managing director’s six-month professional development bill was $29,665 and included a seven-day leadership course at the five-star Millbrook Resort in Queenstown. The training was endorsed by New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom.
The Institute for Strategic Leadership program is marketed as a premier provider of world-class experiential leadership development programs for business leaders and senior executives.
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Program fees are $19,900, while meals and accommodation are $2,375, all excluding GST. Post-program coaching costs $3,500 for six sessions.
The bill for Stevenson’s professional development course has eclipsed that of any elected member in the past five years.
While professional development expenditures peaked for councilors and the mayor during this period of the 2019/2020 fiscal year, when they reached $37,888, average expenditures for each elected member ranged from $857 to 2 $525.
Most of the money spent on an elected member for professional development during this five-year period was in the last fiscal year, when taxpayers spent $5,670 on Councilor Anneka Carlson for the first mandate.
Overall, the NPDC has a budget of $1 million for employee development, skills courses and training, of which $180,000 is earmarked at the manager level under the executive team.
On Thursday, Holdom defended Stevenson’s professional development award.
In an emailed statement nearly two days after questions first arose over the reported expenses, he said the council was committed to providing its staff and advisers with appropriate professional development. .
“Opportunities like this are an important part of attracting and retaining talent in this tight job market,” Holdom said.
The mayor also pointed out that the course in Queenstown was the first Stevenson had taken since his appointment.
“He is running a multi-billion dollar organization on our behalf and the CE (Chief Executive Officer) Performance Review Board fully supports this investment,” Holdom said.
The endorsement of the leadership course and associated costs was in stark contrast to the view taken by the public spending watchdog, the Taxpayers Union of New Zealand.
“Following a 12% rate hike, the last thing New Plymouth ratepayers want to see is council staff having fun in a five-star hotel,” the spokesperson said. Louis Houlbrooke in a statement.
He said the “Queenstown junket” was completely out of step with the sacrifices made by households facing higher costs in every part of their budget.
“Mr. Stevenson claims to have 45 years of experience in the local government sector. You would think he would have developed leadership skills by now,” Houlbrooke said.
He also questioned the timing of the course, four years into Stevenson’s tenure.
‘If Mr Stevenson really needed training it should have happened at the start of his appointment so that the ratepayers of New Plymouth had time to see the benefits.’