Auckland's local politicians have rounded on overseas postings created by the Auckland Council's economic development arm, one even labelling it a 'major scandal'.

On Saturday, the Herald revealed that Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) had created a contract in London for one of its senior executives, Grant Jenkins, at a cost to ratepayers of more than $230,000.

His English-born wife was homesick and had been longing to return home for several years, according to a former council staffer.

Now it's emerged Aucklanders also have a representative working in San Francisco.


Pam Ford, of Auckland Council's economic development arm, has been based in San Francisco since March last year.

Yesterday, an Ateed spokesman confirmed that Ms Ford, the project manager for Ateed's leverage programme at the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, had returned to the city for a joint role with New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade as a VIP programme manager.

The cost of the job to Auckland ratepayers is unknown, but an Ateed spokesman last night said it was a small percentage of the 12-month contract.

Ms Ford was one of 11 Ateed staff who spent $220,000 promoting New Zealand exports and investment from California during the three-month cup campaign.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley, who defended Mr Jenkins' posting on Friday, was not responding to messages yesterday.

In a joint statement with Mayor Len Brown on Saturday, Mr O'Riley signalled a plan for a third overseas posting in China.

Yesterday, Mr Brown defended Mr Jenkins' posting and other overseas postings.

He said Ateed had a brief to promote economic development in New Zealand and overseas.


"I totally back Brett [O'Riley] in his decision here. All they are doing is carrying our what we have told them to do and that is to encourage overseas investment in our city.

"This is a pilot project and it will conclude in September. The key thing I want to see is an outcome here," Mr Brown said.

Brown on why he didn't know about London job

Speaking on TV3 this morning, Mr Brown reiterated his support for the two, possibly three, overseas postings.

"It is all about jobs, investment in our city and visitors to our city," he said.

Asked why he did not know about the London posting until the story was broken by the Herald, Mr Brown said there were 8500 people employed by the council.

"The person directly responsible for this is the chief executive officer and then chief executive officers like Brett O'Riley for our council companies like Ateed.

"And so 'no' I would not know about everyone who was employed and where they are employed but I would say I totally back Brett and his leadership."

Asked if Mr Jenkins' wife - who was reportedly homesick - was from Latvia, would Mr Jenkins now be working in Latvia, Mr Brown said: "I'm not going into the details of it."

Councillor Casey: It's a 'major scandal'

Auckland councillor Cathy Casey today described the overseas posts as a "major scandal" and has written to the Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, asking her to review the matter.

She told Ms Provost that she was horrified to learn of the $230,000 of ratepayers' money being spent by a council-controlled organisation.

"I am extremely worried about the propriety of this spend and the process by which this person was selected and employed.

"The Mayor defended the decision saying that there is a need to "aggressively grow international investment and revenues into Auckland.

"I have real concerns about how much is being spent by Ateed on international postings and the salary and expenses associated with these postings.

"I am also concerned about the process that this CCO followed in selecting candidates.

"This is a huge risk to Auckland Council's reputation as we consult with the ratepaying public over a range of cuts in the Long Term Plan," Ms Casey said.

Howick councillor Dick Quax has called the issue an "outrage" and Waitemata and Gulf councillor Mike Lee "unjustifiable".

Rodney Local Board member Phelan Pirrie said: "I am kind of wondering if it is possible for Auckland Council to stumble through a week without some sort of stupidity occurring that makes the elected members look like we haven't got a clue."

Local politicians continue to slam the overseas postings.

Manurewa Local Board chairwoman Angela Dalton said: "It just gets worse by the day - the motivation to remain even remotely connected to this Council is waning."

Said Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson: "I have people asking me why is it okay for ratepayers money to be spent on an overseas posting yet they lose local library hours?

Read more: Auckland library hours changed in push to save $1.1m

Ms Simpson said Mr Brown, when talking about cutting library hours, had said the message from the community was to "cut your cloth".

"Well the message from the community back may well be "cut yours!" And every other line of non-core council business," she said.

Ms Simpson said the mayor was saying Ateed were only doing what he told them to.

Her advice to the governing body was to get a report on the postings so they do not read about it in the Herald first, and expressions of interest before anyone was sent to China.

She said there could be worth in a China posting, but with core council services set to drop and rates in Orakei rising between 10 per cent and 40 per cent, it better be a "very, very, very good report".

Ateed spending '$60 million' of ratepayers' cash each year

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said Ateed was spending about $60 million of ratepayers' cash each year, but he was unable to get a breakdown of its running costs.

Information provided to Mr Brewer under the Official Information Act showed Ateed's communication and marketing budget had increased from $690,207 in the eight-month 2010-2011 financial year to $5.3 million in 2013-2014.

This was unacceptable, Mr Brewer said, and way out of whack with other council-controlled organisations(CCOs).

"This is another terrible look when ratepayers are now being asked to pay even more rates, accept much more council debt and consider paying road tolls or a regional fuel tax."

Mr Brown's defence of the London posting looked like a weak parent trying to defend a very naughty child, Mr Brewer said.

"It is unbelievable he has taken the side of Ateed and not Auckland ratepayers. So now we have a mayor that sides with big bureaucratic waste, not with genuine public concern," Mr Brewer said.