State-owned company KiwiRail and the Beehive are batting away questions over lack of public disclosure of new board appointments, including at chairman level.
Two new directors were appointed earlier this month to the board of KiwiRail, which was allocated $1 billion of taxpayer funds in this year's Budget, and the acting chairman Brian Corban has been appointed chairman.
None of the appointments have been publicly announced, and only one new director shows on KiwiRail's website.
A KiwiRail spokesman said it was not the practice of the Government to announce the appointment of new directors to SOEs.
Appointments to the KiwiRail board are made by the Government, as shareholder.
Shareholding minister for KiwiRail is deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Associate SOE minister is Shane Jones. Both are NZ First MPs.
Peters' office confirmed Corban had been made chairman and said KiwiRail itself could have been expected to disclose the appointments. A spokeswoman said so many appointments were made in Peters' portfolios it was not practical to publicly announce them all, though chairman appointments were usually announced. It was not immediately known when Corban was made chairman.
The new directors are Noel Coom and Hazel Armstrong. They joined the board on July 15, a KiwiRail spokesman said.
KiwiRail's former chairman Greg Miller became chief executive of the national rail operation in May this year.
The previous National-led government announced SOE appointments.
The Institute of Directors said in general, it was best practice to publicly announce board appointments "as transparency helps build trust".
Felicity Caird, general manager of the institute's governance leadership centre said best practice around disclosure of board appointments depended on the type of entity.
In the public sector, ministers were ultimately responsible and accountable for appointments and would choose how to announce them, she said.
Massey University school of management senior lecturer Dr Bill Kirkley said under current law there was no obligation on a government-owned entity to disclose new board appointments.
Coom has more than 45 years experience in international shipping and rail, having held senior management jobs in New Zealand, the US and Australia. He is a former New Zealand chairman of the International Container Lines Committee. He is an independent director on the board of freight forwarder Mondiale Freight Services.
Armstrong is a lawyer who specialises in ACC, health and safety, employment law and professional ethics.
She has undertaken inquiries for the government and organisations, including KiwiRail, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and the Ministry of Tertiary Education.
On May 30, Budget day, the Government announced a $741 million appropriation for KiwiRail through Vote Transport over the next two years and a further $300 million available for regional rail projects through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
"More than a billion dollars over two years is an outstanding level of investment from the Government. It's a real shot in the arm for KiwiRail, and a clear recognition of the value rail can add to New Zealand's transport system," said chief executive Miller at the time.
"We know that rail, with 66 per cent fewer emissions per tonne of freight carried than trucks, has a key role to play in reducing New Zealand's transport emissions, relieving congestion on our roads, improving road safety and connecting our communities.
"This funding will allow us to improve the resilience of the rail network and invest in much needed wagons, locomotives and improve the productivity of our workshops so that rail services can be more reliable and operate more competitively in the market.
"KiwiRail operates across the country and we want to deliver more benefits to the regions. It's very encouraging that the Government has set aside $300 million for regional rail projects in this Budget, and we will be discussing regional rail opportunities with them".
The breakdown of Budget funding included:
• $331m towards to improve reliability and resilience, such as maintaining existing tracks, signals, bridges, tunnels, new freight handling equipment and a new freight reservation and tracking system.
• $375m towards replacing 900 ageing container wagons and start replacing the fleet of 48 South Island locomotives and some shunt engines, which are up to 50 years old, and improving the layout and efficiency of the major maintenance depots at Hutt and Waltham.
• $35m for progressing procurement of two new, rail enabled ferries that will replace Interislander's aging Aratere, Kaitaki, and Kaiarahi ferries.
• Potential to access up to $300m from the PGF for regional rail projects.