27 Mar 2010

Businessman to lead supercity council

5:20 pm on 27 March 2010

The first top job in Auckland's new supercity has gone to a business executive with no experience in local government.

Doug McKay has been named as the chief executive of the new Auckland supercity council for its first two years of existence.

Mr McKay will head the council until mid-2012, to set up the new organisation that will replace Auckland's eight existing local bodies.

He was most recently the executive chairman and chief executive of Independent Liquor, which manufactures and distributes a variety of ready-to-drink brands as well as beer, wine and spirits. He also has spent 15 years at the top of firms such as Sealord and Goodman Fielder.

Mr McKay says there are similarities and differences between the private and local government sectors. "There's clearly a much wider scope than a more narrow business focus. You've got social, environmental, cultural and economic objectives to meet," he said.

"And I will be working across all four of those areas in terms of how I influence implementation of the council's policies."

Mr McKay was head-hunted for the job, and the Auckland Transition Agency says his background in customer service and managing periods of change will be invaluable.

He will become one of the country's highest-paid local government executives, with an annual salary of $675,000.

Mr McKay's appointment was welcomed by both leading contenders for the regional mayoralty of Auckland, John Banks and Len Brown.

However, the Labour Party spokesperson on Auckland issues, Phil Twyford, says the appointment will reinforce suspicions that the Government is trying to run Auckland as if it was a company.

The chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Michael Barnett, sees Mr McKay's lack of political baggage as a positive.

Mr McKay will take up the job in August, as interim chief executive, three months before the new supercity is formally established.

Union issues warning

The Service and Food Workers Union claims Mr McKay has shown in the past that he favours privatisation, asset sales and sending work overseas, and says council workers should be wary of their job security.

Assistant national secretary Neville Donaldson says Mr McKay's tenure at Sealord resulted in a site being closed in Dunedin, vessels being sold, and crew being laid off in favour of foreign workers.