McCully acts true to form

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2011
Murray McCully
DON SCOTT/The Press
MURRAY MCCULLY: His forthright style has landed him in trouble in the past.

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OPINION: Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully's sudden takeover after Auckland's waterfront fiasco will not have come as a surprise to those who have watched him operate in the past three decades.

A workaholic, he is known to be abrasive and impatient with officials and bureaucracy and has often been accused of reaching over the top of them to manage his departments.

But his forthright style has landed him in trouble in the past; in 1999, Mr McCully was forced to quit as tourism minister after a damning auditor-general's report into unlawful severance payouts to Tourism Board members.

The report revealed a highly dysfunctional relationship between Mr McCully and the board, and one member later claimed that pressure from Mr McCully and his advisers had virtually paralysed the board during critical planning for the America's Cup and millennium events.

As National's long-time strategist, Mr McCully's manner has won him as many enemies as it has friends within the National caucus.

His preference for backroom machinations earned him a reputation as a Machiavellian figure in National's ranks, and were probably what made him the natural choice for foreign affairs minister after the 2008 election.

But he has surprised his critics and proved to be highly adept in the portfolio, both on the overseas stage and at home, although he has ruffled feathers with his efforts to bring a more strategic focus to the role.

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