Labour-leaning directors go

BY VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2009

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National has launched its night of the long knives on state boards, with a range of mostly Labour-leaning directors being told they no longer have a job.

A spokesman confirmed yesterday that State-Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power had written to "a number" of directors telling them that when their terms ended on April 30 they would not be reappointed.

He said all had been appointed by Labour since 1999, but he would not comment on whether they were seen as political appointments.

He would also not say how many had been sacked and would not name those no longer required.

The reasons for the decisions not to reappoint were "various".

A Labour Party source said individual directors, seen as political appointments, had been "interviewed" by the Crown Company Monitoring and Advisory Unit of Treasury and been advised to fall on their swords. "They are being told their faces don't fit."

It is understood the casualties include Meridian Energy director Polly Schaverien and former Labour staffer Tony Timms from the board of Quotable Value.

Former ACC chairman Ross Wilson remains on the ACC board in the interim.

He said he had not received a letter "yet" about his future. He is also a director of KiwiRail.

Others who could be seen as Labour-aligned include former Council of Trade Unions president Ken Douglas, who is on the boards of NZ Post and Air New Zealand, former Labour MP Dianne Yates, who is on the board of Food Standards Australia-New Zealand, Bryan Gould, who is a former senior British Labour MP, CTU secretary Peter Conway, who is on the board of Trade and Enterprise, and Graham Hill, who is on the board of Niwa and is the husband of Helen Clark confidante Joan Caulfield.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the moves were "a witch-hunt" against board members simply because they were not National Party supporters.

"National is determined to go back to the old days when you needed to be a card-carrying National member to get appointed."

Mr Power has called a meeting with SOE chairmen and women on April 9 to discuss how to improve their poor results in the second half of 2009 and to canvass the future makeup of boards.

It is not expected all changes will be one-way traffic against Labour. Former finance minister Michael Cullen is tipped to be appointed to chair a major state-owned enterprise. The chairs of energy generators Genesis and Mighty River Power and grid operator Transpower are due to be appointed later this year.

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- The Dominion Post

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