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Housing Ministry head hints he acted against departed KiwiBuild head Stephen Barclay

Friday 18th January 2019

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Ministry of Housing and Urban Development chief executive Andrew Crisp has given the strongest indication yet that departed KiwiBuild unit head Stephen Barclay was the subject rather than the initiator of an employment dispute that appears to have caused his resignation.

Mystery already surrounded Barclay's nearly three month absence from his position as inaugural head of the government's flagship KiwiBuild programme, before the one-time head of the San Francisco America's Cup village tendered his resignation earlier today.

Barclay announced his departure in a one line press statement released to some media, followed some hours later by a similarly brief statement from Crisp confirming he had received Barclay's letter offering to resign with immediate effect.

"I am considering how this affects the employment process currently underway," said Crisp. He did not explain what employment process he was referring to, but the clear implication is that whatever employment relationship breakdown occurred at MHUD, it was at the ministry's rather than Barclay's initiative. An MHUD spokeswoman declined to clarify the statement beyond saying that "the employment process is in reference to an existing employment matter between the Ministry and Stephen Barclay".

Barclay was appointed in May to lead KiwiBuild, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford's ambitious policy to add some 100,000 additional 'affordable' homes to the New Zealand housing stock over a decade.

The initiative has attracted heavy fire from the National Party's housing spokeswoman, Judith Collins, as its details have been slow to emerge, KiwiBuild home starts have appeared to stall, and questions have arisen over whether the scheme will morph to become more an underwriter of private residential developments than building homes in its own right.

Twyford has offered no explanation for Barclay's absence from work since early November, shortly after Crisp took up the reins at MHUD, a new government agency established in October. 

He repeated today that the issue was an operational staffing matter and that ministerial comment on the issue would be "inappropriate".

Collins, however, said "Mr Twyford needs to come clean."

“It’s taken three months for Mr Barclay to exit from a role he held for only four months," she said. "This is extraordinary and needs a full explanation from Mr Twyford, and whether it was due to a relationship breakdown."

A New Zealander, Barclay was chief executive of the 2013 America's Cup defence in San Francisco, where he worked closely with former New Zealand America's Cup winner Russell Coutts, who by then was ceo for the Oracle challenge led by billionaire Larry Ellison.

Barclay copped bitter criticism from both city politicians and media amid accusations the event had not delivered sufficiently for San Francisco, leading him to launch a parting broadside after the event had ended.

(BusinessDesk)

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