Search starting for Super City chief

By Bernard Orsman

A search is under way to find an interim chief executive for Auckland's Super City, who will play a crucial role in the biggest shake-up of local government in decades.

The agency designing the Super City has started advertising for the role, which is likely to carry a salary of more than $500,000.

The chief executive of the Super Auckland Council will control a $3 billion budget, $29 billion worth of assets and more than 6000 staff.

The role is comparable to the Auckland District Health Board, whose chief executive Garry Smith is paid between $540,000 and $550,000 to control a $1.6 billion budget and manage about 7500 fulltime staff.

Auckland City's David Rankin, who runs the country's largest council and is paid $453,000, is expected to apply.

Auckland Regional Council chief executive Peter Winter, Waitakere chief executive Vijaya Vaidyanath and Rodney chief executive Rodger Kerr-Newell are other possible contenders.

The job has two main challenges - merging eight different council organisations into a new structure and building a council culture and relationship with 1.4 million Aucklanders.

Last year's Royal Commission on Auckland Governance confirmed significant antagonism towards what Waiheke Island resident Susan Pockett called "a bloated bureaucracy of unelected and unaccountable functionaries, with a culture of arrogant disregard for the will of the people".

The region's eight chief executives came in for special attention for having too much power, being the unelected de facto leader of their fiefdoms, acting in an arrogant way, wasting money, paying ex-staff exorbitant fees as consultants and ignoring the wishes of people.

The job description for the interim chief executive is strong on the need for change management skills. Candidates must also show personal attributes of "professionalism, judgment and political acumen", work in a "transparent and open fashion" and be "energetic and inspirational".

Peter McKinlay, director of the local government centre at Auckland University of Technology, said the interim chief executive role was not a job for the faint hearted.

Whoever was appointed would be responsible for ensuring Auckland hits the ground running when the Super City comes into being on November 1 next year.

"They [the agency] want someone who is really experienced in change management and that is going to be absolutely critical because you are pulling together so many organisations in so many different ways. Not just eight councils, but water utilities and creating a new transport body," Mr McKinlay said.

He said the Auckland Transition Agency could appoint a chief executive with experience of Auckland local government or look elsewhere.

There were a number of good chief executives who had stood down from a big shake-up of local government in Queensland.

Other possibilities, he said, were former Waitakere chief executive Mark Dacombe, who heads a council in Perth; and former University of Auckland and University of Oxford vice-chancellor Dr John Hood.

- NZ Herald

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