Boult takes City Care post

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013

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Departing Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult is stepping into the role of chairman of the council company looking after roads, sewers, parks and civic amenities.

His appointment to the chairmanship of City Care was announced yesterday.

But it is not the beginning of a shift to becoming a professional director after five years at the airport's helm.

Boult, who leaves the airport at the end of the month, has other opportunities to mull and may have his next position decided by early February.

He bats away speculation he might have been interested in the vacant chief executive's role at Christchurch City Council.

"I'm not in the market for that role," Boult said yesterday.

The opening at City Care follows chairman Tony King telling Christchurch City Holdings in July he wanted to step down after taking a permanent position at Solid Energy as its chief financial officer.

King, who has been a consultant to Solid Energy, will remain a director of City Care until his term expires next October.

Boult was appointed a director of City Care in October.

His role as chair will primarily be one of governance, carrying out the normal functions of a board of directors.

"I'm very excited about it and looking to work with the management of City Care to develop its business further and recover profitability."

City Care's profit plunged to $2.8 million in the June 2013 year after it geared up too early for the rebuild. It lost nearly 400 staff in that year and hired 706 to ready itself for infrastructure repair projects. It is one of five companies repairing "horizontal infrastructure" - water, sewers, stormwater and road networks over five years.

City Care is not one of the city's core infrastructure companies but one of its largest trading companies nevertheless.

Debate is bubbling away over whether it should remain in council ownership.

But Boult is not stepping into that minefield at this stage.

"Ownership is something for the shareholders and it's not something I have a view on," he said.

"So it's up to the city and CCHL [Christchurch City Holdings] to decide what assets it wants to own. My job is simply to provide governance at board level."

The City Care board's strategy is to carve out a bigger slice of the rebuild for itself. It has in the past 12 months launched into vertical construction of commercial buildings, residential earthquake repairs, and offering a tree trimming service for residential customers.

"I think the fact that it is council-owned is beside the point. It's a contracting company with multiple sources of revenue undertaking multiple tasks. And if it can enter into profitable contracts that involve rebuild around the city then that's fine."

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It competed on "an absolutely level playing field" with a lot of other contracting companies.

Its work for the city council was either negotiated or competed for.

"It's not simply a matter of the work being handed to the company on a plate," Boult said.

As to the future, "I don't see myself as becoming a professional director, put it that way."

"But I have a raft of opportunities that have been given to me to consider, from a number of organisations, and I plan to take January off and contemplate those, while I'm sitting by the pool."

The opportunities were both inside and outside New Zealand.

"It's been a very full-on five years and I want a break."

Boult is a former director and deputy chairman of Tourism New Zealand and has been director, managing director and chairman of several substantial public and private companies.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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