New executive to face up to supercity’s harsh realities
The new executive team for the Auckland transitional council has only just been named, but has already faced down hard questions over its democratic processes and council staff redundancies.
As first tipped on NBR's website last week, Mark Ford, chief executive of Watercare and chairman on the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, was named today as the executive chairman.
He will chair a group chosen for their practical skills, namely Miriam Dean QC, high-profile accountant John Waller, local government expert John Law and former Maori TV executive Wayne Walden.
His role will be to oversee the transition of Auckland’s regional council and seven city councils to the new Auckland ‘supercity’, which will oversee 20-30 community boards.
Mr Ford confirmed today in a press conference that he would be resigning his previous positions to allay fears of a conflict of interest.
He will have no further involvement with the finalised council once the transitional agency has performed its duties.
His new role will be a fulltime role, valued at a $540,000 a year, with a 10% performance bonus.
Local Government minister Rodney Hide says that the pay scale was determined from the existing council pay structures.
Mr Ford described it as a pay cut, but that he is delighted to accept the role and is committed to an outcome he says will be “magnificent.”
The new executive chairman assured those present that there would be no privatisation of any assets under his watch.
He wants the agency to operate in a transparent and efficient manner, despite critics who maintain that the entity tramples over the democratic process.
The press conference was crashed by local activist Penny Bright who compared the agency to Nazi Germany, declaring the press conference and the transition agency unlawful.
The bill to set up the agency was passed through Parliament last Saturday under urgency, in the face of intense filibustering from Labour and the Greens.
When asked if the transition agency’s new powers would trample over the rights of individual elected council members to make decisions, Mr Ford said that decisions would not be interfered with unless they clashed with the new body’s objectives.
“Look, Auckland can’t just stop while the process goes on.”
One of the first roles for the new executive chairman will be the appointment of a chief executive, who he will work with closely and will transition in to the role with the finalised Auckland council.
The 6800 staff currently employed by the councils still have no answer over whether their jobs are safe, however.
Mr Ford had no answer for specific concerning the transition agencies approach to staffing levels.
“There are going to be redundancies, I can’t reconcile that,” he says.
He assured the public present that the process would be fully consulted and done with dignity, but would not confirm whether they would occur during the transition agencies tenure, or at its conclusion.
Councils such as Rodney and Franklin District have considered opting out of the council, with Rodney’s council last week voting to look at becoming a unitary council as one of four options.
The public submission process is to follow, which is expected to be heated.
Mr Hide says that he had looked at doing a referendum on the issue but didn’t consider the issue to be a “yes or no question.”
The Auckland Transition Agency’s six main responsibilities:
1. The Creation of the Auckland Council and the local boards
2. Managing the organisational changes
3. Ensuring continued delivery of councils’ and council controlled organisations’ responsibilities
4. Continued momentum of key projects such as the Rugby World Cup and waterfront development.
5. Ensuring the transition process is well communicated to stakeholders
6. Winding up existing organisations once the new organisation has been established