Alex Swney, the disgraced former chief executive of Auckland's Heart of the City business organisation, has broken his silence to criticise the latest waterfront plans by Ports of Auckland.
Swney, who has kept his head down after being freed from prison four months ago, was filled with rage after seeing a "five-storey bunker for parking imported cars cloaked with a public park and a hotel".
"It fails urban design 101 and it's laughable how such a plan can be put out there with a straight face," said Swney, who was jailed for five years and seven months in June 2015 after being convicted of tax evasion and fraud involving more than $4 million over a decade.
I have given up on reputation. It's just going to be about character
The married father-of-two pleaded guilty to charges laid by the Inland Revenue and Serious Fraud Office for offending that Judge Grant Fraser said involved "a gross breach of trust".
Action by Heart of the City against Swney recovered less than 14 per cent of the millions stolen. He was declared bankrupt in 2015.
Swney was released on parole in June after serving a third of his sentence, most of that at Wiri Prison in South Auckland.
"I'm the first to acknowledge I am scorched," said Swney at his Grey Lynn home in a commercial building that doubles as an office and warehouse for his wife's fashion business.
"I can't undo what I have done. Me and my family have paid a terrible price."
Swney says he has a right to take part in the latest port debate, saying in his former role as head of Heart of the City he had a protracted and antagonistic battle with Ports of Auckland, he held years of research and "not to speak up is probably irresponsible".
Reluctantly, he said, the ports company is acknowledging they will be vacating their site within 20 to 30 years, but they cannot see beyond their vested interests. In the meantime, they will shred a couple of hundred millions of dollars building a carpark and hotel on the waterfront, he said.
"They may be good at handling containers but they distort the shape of our city with their myopic view of the world and in particular the shape and direction and aspiration for Auckland," Swney said.
The 60-year-old said there was no chance of him getting back into public life but he would remain a committed and passionate Aucklander.
"The last four months have been busy. I certainly haven't been dancing on the table tops. I am doing things in a measured way."
Swney was shocked to see how many prisoners could not read and write and began working in a literacy programme while in prison. This, and the state of the prison system, is something he is working on with the Howard League for Penal Reform.
"I bring a unique perspective from the wrong side of the wire on how our prison system is failing."
Swney, once famous for darting about the city on a Vespa scooter, hopes Aucklanders will forgive him over time.
"I have given up on reputation. It's just going to be about character. With that in mind I am living a much more measured life. There are some, including myself, who are disappointed, but I have to say to those that righteousness is not an attractive trait. I just have to draw a line in the sand."