Housing NZ directors get 63% pay hike after boardroom shuffle
By Paul McBeth
Feb. 10 (BusinessDesk) - Low pay was among the reasons for a rapid turnover in Housing New Zealand's boardroom in recent years, and the government's social housing agency has bumped up its fees by 63 percent after getting an exemption from the State Services Commission.
Six Housing NZ directors resigned in 2014 and 2015, and at June 30 last year the Crown agency had just five of its usual eight directors. Chair Adrienne Young-Cooper told parliament's social services select committee it was "pretty unusual" for the board to have so many empty seats, but it had since filled them.
When asked by Green Party MP Jan Logie whether remuneration was behind the departures, Young-Cooper said it was an issue for some directors.
"I think that remuneration can be a factor for some board members and I'm aware it has been mentioned not only in Housing New Zealand but in the broader Crown environment," she said.
Young-Cooper disagreed that the social housing agency's scope had been narrowed. Rather it had gone through a period of transformation. Her expectations were for the board members to understand Housing NZ's day-to-day operations and the issues it faces across the country.
"All of these place significant demands on board members' time," she said.
Young-Cooper took over the chair in September, replacing Allan Freeth who accepted a job heading up the Environmental Protection Agency. Freeth himself had only taken over Housing NZ's chairmanship in August of 2013, replacing Alan Jackson who resigned over the potential conflict of interest from his directorship of Fletcher Building.
Deputy John Duncan was appointed in October last year, and the board is rounded out by Sandra Alofivae, Peter Dow, Tau Henare, Jeff Meltzer, Michael Schur, Alick Shaw and Jill Spooner. Just Meltzer, Young-Cooper and Spooner have been on Housing NZ's board for more than two years.
Fees for Housing NZ's directors got bumped up to $49,000 from $30,000, which Treasury deputy secretary of financial and commercial operations Brendan Doyle said was to align the fees to that paid at agencies with similar sized balance sheets such as Accident Compensation Corp, whose directors also receive $49,000 a year.
"In this particular example we did go for an exemption to the SSC rules to increase the fees bringing them in line with ACC and other significant balance sheet and complicated board appointments," Doyle said.
The select committee hearing was the last for chief executive Glen Sowry, who will head up retirement village operator Metlifecare from mid-April.
Sowry said the agency had moved to tighten up its quality assurance and internal audit of work to maintain and upgrade property after receiving an anonymous tip that it was being charged for work that hadn't been done.
Housing NZ stood down subcontractors over the allegations and is in the process of taking legal action, he said.