Training for ECan boss costs $73,000

Ratepayers have forked out more than $73,000 to send Environment Canterbury's chief executive to a French business school.

Bill Bayfield was sent to Insead business school in France for four weeks in July last year.

It is ranked the world's second-best business school by Forbes Magazine.

ECan commissioners said Bayfield needed the "significant development opportunity" after the earthquakes and to implement the regional council's water plans.

Bayfield was not the only Canterbury chief executive who attended the course.

Orion New Zealand sent former boss Roger Sutton and his successor, Rob Jamieson, who it was announced this week had received a $170,000 pay rise.

The Christchurch City Council owns about 90 per cent of Orion.

Politicians and ratepayer groups blasted the expense as "outrageous", challenging government to rein in commissioners and excessive council spending and while they agreed training was important, sending Bayfield to France was an extravagance, they said.

Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams questioned whether Bayfield was up to the job if he required $74,000 of expert training. "He's already well remunerated. You'd think from that amount of money you could get someone up to the task."

Bayfield's salary is $364,645.

ECan chairwoman Dame Margaret Bazley said commissioners appointed Bayfield in 2011 knowing he would need "significant development opportunity" on account of the region's challenges.

"We are coping with the major disruption of staff working from 12 sites across Christchurch. There are also significant public expectations, and heavy workloads . . . and a greater need than ever to work collaboratively with multiple earthquake recovery partners."

Bayfield was previously chief executive of Bay of Plenty Regional Council, a general manager with the Ministry for the Environment, and spent 20 years with the Taranaki Regional Council.

"Commissioners have a very tight performance agreement with Bill, which includes monitoring his development based on the learnings from the course," Bazley said. The Insead pamphlet says the programme gives participants "insight into the way in which they exercise judgment" and "effectiveness as a manager".

He stayed at the Insead's accommodation, nestled near the Forest of Fontainebleau, about 60 kilometres southeast of Paris.

The State Service Commission, which employs public service chief executives, said it was uncommon for personnel to attend "long-stay overseas residential courses".

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett's office would not answer questions regarding the issue because it was an "operational matter" for ECan.

Political opponents said she should rein in the commissioners. Labour's local government spokesman, Su'a William Sio, said the commissioners were appointed by the Government and "therefore it is the Government that needs to be held accountable" for them.

Green MP Eugenie Sage, a former ECan councillor, said ECan was not transparent or accountable to the public.

Sio said the commissioners sending a chief executive to a French leadership course was not a "shining endorsement" of the country's business trainers.

Bazley said courses in New Zealand were not appropriate - none compared with what Insead offered.

The Press