It is a city that prides itself on its diverse ethnic communities, but Auckland is run by a club of white men living in the wealthy eastern and beach suburbs.

A Herald survey has found 88 of the 99 positions in the council's boardrooms and executive management teams are held by white Europeans, and men fill all the top jobs.

There is just one Pacific Islander and one Asian on the list. Four European board members live in Parnell.

The only ethnic group that comes close to being representative of the Auckland population is Maori, with six board members and one executive. This represents 7 per cent of the 99 roles, close to the 10 per cent Maori in the Auckland population.


Auckland's Pasifika community is poorly represented with a sole representative, Patricia Reade, the transformation director on council chief executive Stephen Town's so-called "dream team" of executives.

The Asianisation of Auckland - about 12 per cent of the population at the 2013 census - has not reached the council. Danny Chan, a healthcare and education businessman, is the only Asian with a senior role at council. He sits on the Ateed board.

The city's Indian population is also under-represented, although Raveen Jadurman holds one of the most senior jobs as chief executive of Watercare (story continues after the graphic).

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According to one insider, a look at the ranks of its most senior echelons shows the council is failing to live up to its own ideals and rhetoric.

"It certainly doesn't look like the Auckland one sees wandering down Queen St, Henderson, Albany, Manurewa or Pakuranga. It is more like an exclusive golf club in Florida or Bloemfontein, with a few from a single privileged iwi allowed in."

Having a diverse boardroom and senior management team is considered healthy for any organisation.

Tony Carter, chairman of Air New Zealand and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, says boards work best when there's a range of views.

"Diversity is about diversity of thought and you only get that from a diversity of background, experience and skill," he says.

One area where the council is doing comparatively okay in diversity is gender on the boards of the seven council-controlled organisations (CCOs). Women directors hold 32 per cent of the seats, compared with about 20 per cent of seats of listed companies on the NZX.

Over the years central government has worked to ensure its boards display gender balance and a range of ethnicities and backgrounds. Last year, 41.7 per cent of state sector board and committee seats were held by women and 42 per cent of senior leadership in the public service was made up of women. Public service chief executives are expected to improve diversity.

In 2010, then-Manukau Mayor Len Brown campaigned to be "the mayor for all of Auckland". He promised to be inclusive and build a city proud of its diversity.

He has since overseen the Auckland Plan - the city's blueprint that trumpets the importance and place of tangata whenua, celebrates its role as a major Pacific City and supports increased diversity.

Five years on and Mr Brown concedes the council still lacks diversity, but says progress is being made, particularly around improving the male-female split.

Measures are in place at the senior executive level to improve ethnic diversity across the council and broaden the pool of potential CCO directors, he said.

"You want this stuff to work straight out of the blocks, but it takes a while to really move the ship around," said Mr Brown, whose senior staff in the mayoral office are all European.

The mayor has established Pacific and ethnic advisory panels to foster inclusion, but there has been discontent.

Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel chairman, the Rev Uesifili Unasa, stood against Mr Brown for the mayoralty in 2013, saying nothing had been delivered for Pacific people in the first term of the Super City.

In March this year, Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel chairman Feroz Ali resigned, saying the panel was "only there for token consultation and frankly a waste of ratepayers' money".

Dr Henry Chung, associate professor in marketing at Massey University, was surprised at the lack of Asian and other ethnic leaders on Auckland Council, saying it was creating a disconnect with ethnic communities.

The Taiwanese-born academic said ethnic communities had a different view from mainstream New Zealand and the council needed a broader ethnic perspective.

It could start, he said, by tuning into two Chinese television stations and welcoming highly qualified people to apply for senior roles.

"I suggest Auckland Council utilise and tap the resources. They are here already," he said.

One resource the council is tapping into is New Zealand Asian Leaders, made up of 150 top Asian leaders, which it informs of CCO board positions.

David Taipari, who chairs the seven-member Independent Maori Statutory Board, is unhappy with the level of Maori representation and diversity on CCO boards, but believes steps are being taken to improve the situation. Currently, six of the 50 CCO board members are Maori and just one Maori - Vivien Bridgwater, of Ateed - is represented at the executive table.

Mr Taipari said that board appointments should be based on merit, but the question is "what does the merit include?"

"Is it all about being great business people or is it about being business people that have a range of diversity around them. You have to be a solid contributor, but what we want to see is more diversity to understand Maori issues and outcomes. What better way to achieve that than having Maori on the boards to assist that," he said.

Mr Taipari would also like to see more Auckland iwi represented at board level. Three of the six Maori board members are from Ngati Whatua, one from Tainui and one each from the Gisborne and Rotorua regions.

"I don't think council are being selective at this stage to select one tribe [from Auckland]. They strongly recognise there are 19 iwi throughout the Tamaki region."

Emerging Maori leader breaks the mould

Rukumoana Schaafhausen juggles being a mother with a number of directorships. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Rukumoana Schaafhausen juggles being a mother with a number of directorships. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Rukumoana Schaafhausen breaks the mould in the council boardroom. She is female, Maori and hankers to move back to South Auckland.

The 43-year-old mother of two sits on the boards of the council's regional facilities arm, Genesis Energy and Tainui's tribal arm.

Sitting in the sun outside a favourite Mangere Bridge cafe, the emerging Maori leader wonders if she and her young family will be able to buy a house in the community she called home until moving to Onehunga a few weeks ago.

Ruku, as she is known, grew up in Morrinsville, studied and practised law and juggles being a mother with directorships. She has been on the Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) board since the Super City's formation. She brings a Maori perspective that is wider than Maori cultural values, she says.

"I'm confident that the Regional Facilities board are very cognisant of the relevance and importance of Maori culture and its uniqueness and how we can capitalise on that with respect to the services we offer."

The makeup of the council's boardrooms and executive teams ought to reflect Auckland's demography, she says.

"It's about the social, the commercial, the cultural and the environment coming together."

The RFA board internships is one area of improvement. This year's female Indian intern has "fantastic skills and talents and will bring a cultural overlay".