'Aggressive' Auckland Transport leader sought, but how much should they be paid?

Outgoing Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton was paid up to $680,000 per year, Auckland Transport's ...
SIMON SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Outgoing Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton was paid up to $680,000 per year, Auckland Transport's annual report shows.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has signalled to Auckland Transport he wants its new chief executive to "drive outcomes" while the organisation reduces costs.

Founding chief executive David Warburton, who has been paid up to $680,000 per year, is leaving after more than six years leading the billion dollar-plus budgeted council-controlled organisation.

Despite Goff and key Auckland councillor Chris Darby being non-committal on a salary ceiling for the new chief executive, Goff's letter of expectation demands Auckland Transport (AT) commit to "holding administrative and corporate spending at or below 2016/17 levels".

"We'd be looking for somebody with that deep knowledge, with a major state or province, or a whole country, that they ...
AUCKLAND COUNCIL

"We'd be looking for somebody with that deep knowledge, with a major state or province, or a whole country, that they have been leading transport issues on," Auckland councillor Chris Darby said.

A spokesman for Goff said, "on the point of public transport, the expectations are clear from the letter: 'aggressively pursuing strong growth in public transport use and active modes with refreshed targets, particularly through ensuring the new public transport network is successfully implemented with a strong customer focus'."

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Darby, who chairs the council's planning committee which AT's board answers to, said the "job won't be gold-plated at all".

"We will be scouring the world for somebody to come to Auckland to shift gears, lead a step-change on transport and then ...
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

"We will be scouring the world for somebody to come to Auckland to shift gears, lead a step-change on transport and then we'll see what it costs," Auckland councillor Chris Darby said.

The council had "influence through communication with their board chair, the mayor and I are meeting with the board chair to discuss that position and the skill-set that is required".

"We will be scouring the world for somebody to come to Auckland to shift gears, lead a step-change on transport and then we'll see what it costs."

International recruitment firm Robert Half New Zealand's general manager Megan Alexander said although salary packages on offer for potential chief executives were a "key component" to attracting the right person, "the opportunity, position and profile of the company also play a role".

"There needs to be a proper partnership between the company and the CEO in terms of their strategic alignment, direction and goals in order to lead the business in a positive direction."

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Organisations needed CEO successors who could build on the success of their predecessors while organisations in transition needed "forward-thinking, open-minded and creative" heads to lead them to their "fullest potential".

"This person can't just be a people-manager, but an inspirational leader," Alexander said.

"There needs to be a proper partnership between the company and its CEO in terms of strategic alignment, direction and ...
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"There needs to be a proper partnership between the company and its CEO in terms of strategic alignment, direction and goals in order to lead the business in a positive direction," Robert Half New Zealand general manager Megan Alexander said.

The job is expected to be filled before Christmas, and whoever gets it would have to have a "proven track-record" and demonstrate "game-changing leadership", Darby said.

"A position like this would take a good six months" to fill, but Darby said he "knows of some very talented individuals" in places like London and New york eyeing the job.

The council sets the "political direction", such as securing more central government funding for Auckland's public transport network, while the new AT leader needed to be politically savvy, helping "implement" the council's objectives, Darby said.

NoMore Rates campaigner David Thornton believes Auckland Transport's "corporatised" structure will hobble having a ...
SIMON MAUDE/FAIRFAX NZ

NoMore Rates campaigner David Thornton believes Auckland Transport's "corporatised" structure will hobble having a "hands-on" CEO.

"We would expect them to show leadership with these huge challenges we're facing, we'd be looking for somebody with that experience, that deep knowledge, within a major state or province, or a whole country, that they have been leading transport issues on.

"We have to resolve the problem that Auckland can't be spoon-fed [by central government], a $100m there, a $100m here".

Although NoMoreRates campaigner David Thornton believed a "good, hands-on, hardworking CEO" could be found for between $400,000 and $500,000, he said AT's historically "corporatised" structure would handicap the kind of leader Goff and Darby envisaged.

"[AT's] whole structure lends itself to this pyramid-type management, one manager at the top, six at the bottom.

"I don't blame David Warburton, it's the system he was put in.

"Before appointing a new [AT CEO] council has to get it's act together to decide how much independence and authority Auckland Transport has."

 - Stuff

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