Peter Dornauf: Lacking leadership at every turn

Fonterra's Theo Spierings is New Zealand's highest paid chief executive, earning $8.3m last year.
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Fonterra's Theo Spierings is New Zealand's highest paid chief executive, earning $8.3m last year.

OPINION: Remember a while back and the incident involving the giant plastic cow with farmers clustered beneath it, tractors parked up nearby, Winston Peters gate-crashing the party and being shouted down? It seems a world away now. Morrinsville and the cow was a lightning rod for rural concern over Labour's proposed tax on water usage. National claimed it would cost farmers thousands. Labour suggested cents.

As always truth was difficult to find in the murky waters of political wrangling. There should be a tax on politicians for befouling the waterways of fact and veracity. Clean up your act. Plant some truth trees.

Farmers vigorously defended their position over the tax. Hell, they weren't even really using the water. Those irrigators, according to one apologist, were merely throwing it up into the air and letting it return from whence it came. I suppose we're all doing that when you think about it. We drink the water and it eventually ends up back in the ground. Why am I paying water rates!

Farmers protest at Morrinsville's Mega Cow.
KATRINA TANIRAU/STUFF

Farmers protest at Morrinsville's Mega Cow.

One can understand the farmers' consternation, many of whom are still recovering from the rural downturn. Thus I expected to see more recently a bevy of farmers gathered together again beneath the black and white behemoth in protest against what can only be described as the gross obscenity of a pay rise given to the already overpaid Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings. The man now earns over $8 million a year. Is that what happens when you sack 700 of your employees? You hoover up their earnings? They must be spitting.

READ MORE:
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings - is he worth paying $8.32m for a year's work?
Waikato Hospital former executive cost taxpayers $50,000
Waikato DHB chief executive quits

But where were the farmers and their tractors in the face of this indecency? They were conspicuous by their absence. Does that mean they, as shareholders, are happy that their hard-earned money, during lean times, is sloshing around inside the CEO's bulging pockets, especially when Fonterra profits were down 11 per cent on last year?

Mary Anne Gill, who, without authority (while Waikato Hospital media director) signed off a contract with the Chiefs ...
CHRIS HILLOCK/STUFF

Mary Anne Gill, who, without authority (while Waikato Hospital media director) signed off a contract with the Chiefs rugby franchise, costing taxpayers $50,000.

The man the farmers shouted down during the election campaign beneath the big cow, recently bagged the CEO, labelling him a "fat cat" and calling him to account.

The old chestnut of overseas comparisons was trotted out yet again to justify such profligacy. It's the "look, everyone else is doing it" trope. No morality or principle, just using the same sickening excesses from overseas as a benchmark and applying it here. No, look we're just a tiny little island and this is not an appropriate or ethical position to take, particularly given the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment – people on the bones of their backsides, sleeping rough; people out of jobs because they were made redundant by the very company that's lavishing nauseatingly crass amounts of money on its CEO.

It's a measure of the bankrupt values that these people operate by today, representing a level of decadence crept into our once egalitarian society. One wonders how these people, the mega-rich and their acolytes can sleep at night. Actually they sleep quite comfortably, cushioned, as they are, on beds plumped up with the downy plumage of truckloads of money.

Former Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray resigned after a probe into his spending. He was hired despite warnings.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Former Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray resigned after a probe into his spending. He was hired despite warnings.

Things are seriously out of alignment. As is the political situation we find ourselves in at the moment where a minor party with only seven per cent of the vote can determine the nature of the future government, whether it's left or right. This doesn't seem right or even properly democratic. I'm all for power sharing, but this is tail-wagging-the-dog stuff. What sort of Mickey Mouse outfit are we running here? Who's in charge?

The same question could be asked of the Waikato District Health Board that is millions of dollars over budget. One of them is elected member Mary Anne Gill, who, without authority (while Waikato Hospital media director) signed off a contract with the Chiefs rugby franchise, costing taxpayers $50,000. Will Gill step down or replay the money? Hell no. She said she was "passionate about wanting to make a difference to health".

No one is questioning the woman's "passion", a most overworked word used these days by those who are looking for credibility cheaply won. What we are questioning is her poor financial judgment, the lack of which passion may have contributed towards. And what we are looking for is some apology and remorse for the stuff-up, which, as far as I am aware, has not been forthcoming. Wafting up into our nostrils here is the rank odour of entitlement. Someone open a window.

The same seamy issues surround the CEO of the Waikato DHB, Nigel Murray, who, until recently, was living high on the hog courtesy of the taxpayer but was nowhere to be seen due to an inquiry that took forever over the man's questionable spending habits. How long does it take to check a bank account? The board was warned that the man was bad news by senior medical staff, but their concerns were completely ignored. No surprises there. The man has now resigned. No wonder we're deep in the brown stuff with the "we know best" brigade in charge.

 - Stuff

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