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Ford, Auckland infrastructure man, to steer transition to single city

Saturday 23rd May 2009

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Mark Ford, who is head of transport policy and water services in Auckland, was named to lead the team managing the transition to a single city.

He will resign as chief executive of Watercare Services and as chairman of the Auckland Regional Transport Authority “to manage any perception of a conflict of interest,” according to a statement today from Local Government Minister Rodney Hide.

Ford clashed with Auckland Regional Council acting chair Michael Barnett and Transport Minister Rodney Joyce later downplayed his correspondence with Ford in his role as ARTA head, which Barnett had characterised as lobbying.

Hide called the role as executive chairman of the Auckland Transition Agency “the most demanding and important corporate assignment in New Zealand.”

It will pay a salary of NZ$540,000, the NZ Herald reported.

The job requires the disestablishment of the existing seven territorial authorities to create the new Auckland Council and local boards.  The change wipes out democratically elected posts. In Sydney, small local councils fought to resist amalgamations.  

The government has effectively squelched debate about the super city in the Mt Albert by-election by winning more media coverage for candidate Melissa Lee.

Ford said today that the restructuring will require redundancies, an outcome previously flagged by Auckland Mayor John Banks. The council Ford will help create won’t have any seats reserved for Maori.

The Central Leader newspaper reported that Ngati Whatua would be involved in a march of 6,000 people up Queen Street to show their support for the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance’s recommendation for three Maori seats on the new council.

The other members of the transition agency are: Miriam Dean, John Law, Wayne Walden and John Waller, Hide’s statement said. The appointments are effective immediately.

Hide’s statement said Ford has “a strong understanding of Auckland governance and a proven record in managing complex situations and leading high performing teams." 

The transition agency, to be known as the ATA, will be responsible for managing continuity of services during the transition and will have oversight of waterfront development and involvement in Rugby World Cup planning.

ATA will answer to three ministers – Hide, as Local Government Minister, Finance Minister Bill English and Transport Minister Rodney Joyce.

Miriam Dean was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2004 and has strong governance experience, the statement said. Waller is chairman of Bank of New Zealand and John Law was Mayor of Rodney up until 2007.

Wayne Walden’s Maori credentials include his affiliation to Ngati Kahu and Tai Tokerau.

Walden had a governance role at Tranz Rail and was chairman during its incarnation as Toll Holdings. He was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to business and the community in 2007.

The agency will create a new council with $28 billion of assets before ceasing to exist when the city comes into existence in 2010. Council and local board elections are chalked in for October next year, Hide’s statement said.

Click here for Hide’s statement.

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