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Transition Agency Head Says Redundancies Likely

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Mark Ford
Mark Ford

Auckland, May 22 NZPA - The man chosen to head the agency set up to manage Auckland's transition to a super city structure says there will be redundancies among local government workers in the city.

Watercare Services chief executive Mark Ford was announced today as the executive chairman of the five-person agency which will manage the transition to a single Auckland Council in time for the October 2010 local elections.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide also appointed lawyer Miriam Dean, former Rodney District mayor John Law, former Maori Television chairman Wayne Walden and Bank of New Zealand chairman John Waller.

Mr Ford, who will have a salary of $540,000, said there would certainly be job losses as part of the transition to a single council, probably from eight councils.

"There is going to be redundancies. I can't resile from that," Mr Ford told a media conference today.

"But at the same time, I've only just joined the board today. All I can commit to is that that will be done with full consultation and with dignity. These are very valuable people."

Auckland City Mayor John Banks this week said in a radio interview that 40 percent of the greater Auckland region's 7200 staff could lose their jobs, a statement he later went back on, but Mr Ford said he had no idea if that number was accurate.

Mr Ford will resign his positions at both Watercare and with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to take up his position as executive chairman of the transition agency.

"To avoid any possible impression of conflict, I am resigning, which I have to say I do in sadness, my position for the last 15 years in Watercare," he said.

"We've taken that company a long way forward and the future for that company is exciting."

The announcement of the transition agency members was set to be made on Monday but was delayed in the wake of fallout over the Government's appointment of Christine Rankin as a Families Commissioner.

"I think that was an unfortunate implication. At no time was there any concern about Mark Ford, quite the opposite, around the Cabinet table and with ministers there was no doubt that Mark Ford was the person," Mr Hide said.

"What we were keen on was covering off any conflict of interest and then the role of the executive chair, and that's what I referred to as dotting the Is and crossing the Ts."

He said the decision about Mr Ford stepping down from Watercare and Arta had been made before Monday's Cabinet meeting.

Mr Hide described the agency as "a small and effective unit with a very short life span", which will be disbanded in November next year.

One of the roles will be appointing a chief executive for the new super city. Mr Ford said he would not be seeking that position, or any other in the Auckland council.

The current councils will have to put any spending they wish to continue past November 2010 before the transition agency before it can go ahead.

Mr Ford said he didn't intend the agency to get in the way of governance for the next 18 months.

"It will be our intention immediately to work with councils in getting a pragmatic solution. Auckland can't stop whilst this process goes on. "

The press conference was disrupted by opponents of the super city plan who said the issues needed to be put legally to a poll of Aucklanders.

Mr Hide said that legislation did not apply to central Government-led plans, and said people would get their chance to have a say about the super city structure when legislation goes before a select committee.


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