In this series, Bernard Orsman profiles the senior managers whose job it will be to make the new Auckland Council live up to the expectations of Aucklanders.

Today: the chief executive Doug McKay could pass for a cow cocky getting about in a 7-year-old jeep running the largest rural council in New Zealand.

He also happens to run the nation's largest city, home to about 190 ethnic communities and the main venue for next year's Rugby World Cup.

It's a little known fact that 90 per cent of the Super City is rural land, stretching to near Kaiwaka and Mangawhai Heads. Fanning out from the Sky Tower are the suburbs and villages that make up the big smoke.

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At midnight on October 31, Mr McKay will be handed the keys to the Super City to begin the largest, most complex merger in NZ history. Eight councils rolled into one, 8200 staff, $32 billion worth of assets and an annual budget of $3 billion will be in the hands of a corporate leader with no experience of running councils.

Mr McKay was appointed chief executive of the Auckland Council in March - beating 27 other candidates - and began work in August for a fixed term to July 2012. He will be paid a salary of $675,000 with an incentive bonus of $67,500 on top. It's big money by local government standards, but probably a drop in the bucket compared with his previous package as Independent Liquor chief executive and executive chairman.

Mr McKay has 30 years' corporate experience, including senior executive roles at Lion Nathan and five years as chief executive of Sealord.

He describes himself as a passionate Aucklander who has kept gravitating back from various corporate roles.

He attended Kelston Boys' High School, went to university and teachers' training college in the city, has surfed at Piha, played rugby for Ponsonby alongside All Black Bryan Williams and been a director of the City Mission.

The 55-year-old businessman says that with any large undertaking comes opportunity for significant future benefits, but in the short-term there are risks - or stuff-ups, as he put it a little while back. "It's pretty important we get this right," he says.

Right now, Mr McKay is focused on next Monday and what he calls "operational stability" - the rubbish being collected, the phones being answered and building consents processed.

Alongside that is ensuring mayor-elect Len Brown, 20 councillors and 149 local board members have the support needed for the new politics of the Super City.

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Mr McKay, who has been working alongside the agency designing the Super City for several months, believes everything that can be done to this point is in place. That's not to say everything is in place.

"When you are making as many decisions that have been made in the 18-month period on the scale and complexity we have talked about, there will be need for some refinement," he says.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Super City, and Doug McKay, is ensuring the local boards work well and are not at the mercy of the Auckland Council and controlling bureaucrats.

Mr McKay says the Auckland Transition Agency has gone through the council budgets and extracted projects worth about $400 million to hand over to the local boards. The Super City's first proper budget from July next year would allow local boards to initiate and reprioritise projects.

"The local boards have very significant roles in all of this," Mr McKay says, "and I intend to give them all the support they need to execute that."

DOUG McKAY

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Age: 55.

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Educated in Auckland at Kelston Boys' High School, the University of Auckland, Auckland Secondary Teachers' College.

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Independent Liquor chief executive and executive chairman 2007-2009.

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Sealord chief executive 2002-2007.

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Goodman Fielder senior executive 1998-2001.

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Carter Holt Harvey senior executive 1996-1998.

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Lion Nathan senior executive 1991-1996.

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Played rugby for Ponsonby.

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Former director Auckland City Mission.

SUPER CITY LEADER SERIES

* Today:

Chief executive Doug McKay.

* Tomorrow:

Chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley.

* Wednesday:

Chief financial officer Andrew McKenzie.

* Thursday:

Chief operating officer Patricia Reade.