Coun­cil ceo An­drew New­man de­parts

The Napier Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MARTY SHARPE

Hawke’s Bay Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew New­man re­signed last week just days af­ter the coun­cil chair­man said a sug­ges­tion he was about to resign was ‘‘ma­li­cious gos­sip’’.

New­man an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion at a coun­cil meet­ing on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Stuff had been told by a source on Fri­day that New­man was re­sign­ing in March and was to re­ceive a sub­stan­tial pay­out.

When this was put to coun­cil chair­man Rex Gra­ham, he wrote it off as ‘‘ma­li­cious gos­sip’’.

New­man took up the role in May 2007. Un­like the coun­cil’s pre­vi­ous CEOs he was al­ways ca­su­ally dressed in an open­necked shirt.

He was re­leased in 2013 to head the coun­cil’s in­vest­ment arm, the Hawke’s Bay Re­gional In­vest­ment Com­pany Ltd (HBRIC) - which led the trou­ble­some Ru­atani­wha Wa­ter Stor­age Scheme project.

Speak­ing af­ter his res­ig­na­tion was an­nounced he said he was the first to ad­mit he had a ‘‘forth­right’’ style, and ‘‘goal driven’’.

He had lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence of lo­cal gov­ern­ment be­fore tak­ing up the po­si­tion and ‘‘I felt strongly that there were some big chal­lenges in front of the coun­cil... and my style is that if those is­sues ex­ist then I’ll deal with them’’.

New­man said schemes as big as the dam ‘‘re­quire the peo­ple in­volved to be ob­ses­sive about it or you’ll never get there’’.

‘‘I’m not say­ing I did ev­ery­thing right in that process. No­body does, but you can­not make progress and keep ev­ery­body happy all of the time,’’ he said.

‘‘I felt as the ceo of the or­gan­i­sa­tion that I was com­par­a­tively a well paid per­son in this com- mu­nity and to jus­tify my re­mu­ner­a­tion I needed to de­liver some value. I never saw my­self as suited as be­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tive, bu­reau­cratic ceo,’’ he said.

The $330m Ru­atani­wha scheme would cre­ate a 93 mil­lion cu­bic me­tre stor­age reser­voir in the up­per Makaroro river, west of Waipawa, and ir­ri­gate large tracts of the Ru­atani­wha Plains.

He be­lieved progress on the scheme was ‘‘95 per cent’’ to plan, with con­sents granted, en­sur­ing a com­mit­ted cus­tomer base, hav­ing a con­struc­tion con­tract that was ‘‘largely locked and loaded’’ and suf­fi­cient cap­i­tal to fund it.

The only ma­te­rial is­sue re­main­ing was whether 22ha of con­ser­va­tion land could be swapped with other land to al­low the scheme to be built. This is be­ing heard in the Supreme Court next week.

He would have ‘‘re­ally loved’’ to have been ceo of the in­vest­ment com­pany when the project was signed off.

He said the level of per­sonal at­tacks had ini­tially sur­prised him but he got used to them.

‘‘I found that re­ally I hard. I like to think I was try­ing to do the right thing by the coun­cil and the peo­ple of Hawke’s Bay,’’ he said.

In Novem­ber last year Hawke’s Bay re­gional coun­cil­lors voted to com­mis­sion an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the scheme.

The full re­view could be com­pleted by the end of Fe­bru­ary.

New­man is con­fi­dent it would stack up as a wor­thy project ‘‘and there’s a very good chance it will go ahead’’.

If it did not go ahead there was a real risk to the Hawke’s Bay econ­omy with new low flow lev­els in the Tuk­i­tuki River catch­ment hav­ing an im­pact on ir­ri­ga­tors.

Gra­ham said New­man, who fin­ishes on March31, had made a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to the coun­cil.

‘‘An­drew has had to deal with a string of very tough is­sues with a high de­gree of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­pe­tence,’’ Gra­ham said.

He would not dis­cuss any pay out New­man would re­ceive. The po­si­tion would be ad­ver­tised soon and all coun­cil­lors would have a say in select­ing the new ceo, he said.

PHOTO: MARTY SHARPE/FAIRFAX NZ

Hawke’s Bay Re­gional Coun­cil ceo An­drew New­man is leav­ing the role on March 31.

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