In the third article on the executive team running the Super City, Bernard Orsman profiles Andrew McKenzie, a young gun handed a multibillion-dollar budget to run the city

Andrew McKenzie is probably the most powerful public sector finance leader behind Finance Minister Bill English and Reserve Bank Governor Allan Bollard.

He is the $32 billion man. As chief financial officer for the Auckland Council, that's the value of the assets for which he is responsible - seven times Telecom's market capitalisation.

And although corporate giants such as Telecom and Fonterra may have more money coming in, McKenzie still has a budget of about $2 billion a year to run the Super City and nearly $1 billion for capital works.

Add a combined debt of $4 billion inherited from the eight councils and council-controlled organisations such as Watercare Services and you get some idea of the size of the McKenzie boots.

Mr McKenzie looks younger than his 43 years, but behind the boyish good looks is a talented and hard-nosed operator. One Auckland City councillor describes him as having a "rock star swagger".

He strongly rejects the suggestion that officers are the real powerbrokers of council, saying it is his job as a public servant to offer the best advice and a range of options so politicians can make the decisions.

It was Mr McKenzie who used the words "modest" and "small" during public consultation before water bills soared in the "charitable payments" affair in the Dick Hubbard-led council.

A damning parliamentary select committee accused the council of misleading the public.

He also had a hand in expanding bus lane and parking fines to hold down rates, which was embraced by Mayor John Banks and Citizens & Ratepayers.

These controversies have done nothing to harm Mr McKenzie's reputation as a strong manager of the public purse.

He is the only existing council executive to make the top table at the Auckland Council.

Mr McKenzie defines his job in simple terms: "A big part of the role is getting the right money off the right people, making sure it goes to the right purposes and looking after it on the way through."

With the agency designing the Super City taking until the 11th hour to open the books for the new set-up, Mr McKenzie is excited about the numbers and what lies behind them, challenges notwithstanding.

The finances for the first eight months of the Super City will have been put in place by the Auckland Transition Agency using rates set by the outgoing councils so his main focus will be next year's budget.

The following financial year, 2012-2013, will be an even bigger test because that is when the Auckland Council must start phasing in a single rating system for Auckland.

When it comes to pressure on rates, Mr McKenzie says all the councils have been investing in their communities, resulting in rate increases of about 4.5 per cent to 6 per cent, including spending next year on the Rugby World Cup.

Given councils' wishlists, issues such as leaky building payouts, one-off events such as like the Rugby World Cup and the $200 million set-up bill for the Super City - offset by savings - Mr McKenzie sees challenges on the horizon.

Asked if new low fees for regulatory services are realistic, Mr McKenzie says the transition authority has set them, and "I am assuming they are".

But a the end of the day, the policy position of the Auckland Council will determine the level of fees.

"Regulatory fees, along with all our other fees, will be up for discussion with councillors." he says.

ANDREW MCKENZIE
* Age: 43
* Auckland City Council finance general manager 2005-10
* Wellington City Council senior roles 1999-2005
* Roles at Telecom, Bank of New Zealand, Ministry of Commerce
* Commerce and arts degrees, Victoria University