New council chief was head-hunted

Incoming Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery.
Incoming Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery.

Wellington City Council's new chief executive Kevin Lavery has confirmed he was head-hunted for the $400,000 job.

Dr Lavery, who has thrown in the towel as chief executive of Cornwall Council in Britain, will start his job in Wellington in March.

He told local newspaper This is Cornwall the approach from Wellington came after a Cornwall Council vote to oust its Conservative leader Alec Robertson during the ongoing row over public-private partnerships of council services, which had largely been overseen by Dr Lavery.

''I wasn't really looking to leave, I wasn't exploring opportunities at the time, it kind of came out of the blue. If I'm honest about it I got an approach from a head-hunter the day after Alec Robertson was ousted so probably they caught me at a time that I was feeling a bit unsettled.

"I think in my head, where I was, probably last summer I decided that I would look to do five years at Cornwall, that I would wait for the elections in May, bed the new administration and then look for something at that point.

"But, obviously, with all the turmoil with the leadership and getting an approach it was just fortuitous at a time.

"Once I looked into it I had a couple of interviews on Skype etcetera and just became more excited, went out to Wellington and thought yes, this is a fantastic opportunity for me and it's worth taking advantage. It was all about the timing."

While Dr Lavery faced criticism for his moves to privatisation, he last month told The Dominion Post he was coming to New Zealand with an ''open mind''.

"I just want to add to what [departing chief executive Garry Poole] has done," Dr Lavery said.

Dr Lavery, an Englishman of Irish descent, said criticism of his outsourcing council services during his four years as Cornwall Council chief executive was "unfair".

The small amount of outsourcing he had done - in the council's IT department and amalgamating back offices of three health providers and the council - was driven by a 35 per cent drop in central government funding - $1 billion in four years.

"It's not me trying to be theological about outsourcing. If I was ideological about it I would have done it four years ago."

Contact Tom Hunt
Breaking news reporter
Twitter: @tomdom76

The Dominion Post