When Mark Ford took the job of chairman of the Auckland Transition Agency 16 months ago he said he would seek no further employment with the Super City once the Auckland Council was set up. That promise was made amid concerns about how much power Mr Ford would wield in the ATA role. The Herald reported at the time that some National Cabinet Ministers were understood to have had concerns about his conflicts of interest heading Watercare and the transport authority.
But such official concerns seem to have dissipated. Mr Ford, working closely with Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, has overseen the establishment of the super city, at times directly advising Cabinet. He was responsible for the recruitment of the executives and hand-picked boards who will run the city. And now he himself has landed two of the most powerful roles. He is the new CEO of the new water monopoly. He is also chair of the powerful transport agency which will spend more than half of Aucklanders’ rates.
I think Mr Ford’s competence is unquestioned but I have been critical of the concentration of power in the hands of one unelected official. It is particularly galling such a significant appointment has been made three days out from a new mayor and council taking office. There is a convention in central government that senior public service managers don’t get appointed during an election campaign. Why couldn’t they have waited until the new mayor and council were in place?