By PAM GRAHAM
Rail's major customers and opposition politicians are seeing red over the make up of the board overseeing the nationalised railtrack.
The New Zealand Railways Corporation board has been stacked with the Labour Party president, a "militant unionist" and a former Labour Party member of Parliament.
"It's unbelievable," said Paul Harper, convener of the Rail Freight Action Group.
The full board was named yesterday as Mike Williams, Ray Pottoz, Clive Matthewson, Lex Henry and Linda Constable.
Henry and Constable were already on the board and Cameron Moore, a Christchurch businessman, had previously been named chairman.
Williams is president of the Labour Party, Matthewson is a former Labour MP who defected to the United Party in 1995 and Pottoz was national secretary of the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union until 2003.
"It is a totally political board. You could say that Matthewson, because he is an engineer, might have some appropriate expertise, but good God," said Harper.
"Pottoz is a union militant from way back."
"It's jobs for the boys," said National Party finance spokesman John Key.
"They are a bunch of clapped out party hacks and pork barrel politics will reign supreme."
Key said it was sloppy that the Government did not do due diligence on the track before it bought it back.
Finance Minister Michael Cullen's adviser, Chris Mackenzie, said Williams would provide an overview of national transport strategy because he was a director of Transit New Zealand.
Pottoz was regarded as a hard working member of the Accident Compensation Commission board and Matthewson had expertise in engineering.
The corporation is the new track owner and it will change to being a state entity from a state-owned enterprise when legislation goes through Parliament.
"We have been careful in this new era to ensure that we do not have conflicts," Mackenzie said.
Key said Williams had a conflict because he was on the Transit New Zealand board.
Toll NZ, the rail operator with sole access to the network, also gets to appoint one director to the board.
The key appointment of chief executive is expected shortly.
"Toll is a renowned aggressive operator and Track Co is going to have to, at times, stand up to Toll. The board needs to be strong enough to do that," Harper said.
"We have a vested interest in a successful operation, we want it to work."
By PAM GRAHAM