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