The Government has appointed Sir Brian Roche as the new chairman of the troubled New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), ending a period in which the agency had no permanent leadership.
The NZTA has gone through an extremely rough patch after it was revealed in 2018 the agency had been failing to properly check up on the companies who certify vehicle safety and give out licenses.
Law firm Meredith Connell were brought in to help complete a backlog of 850 open compliance files. A separate inquiry into the failure to properly regulate is expected to report back soon.
The appointment ends a period in which NZTA had no permanent board chair or chief executive.
NZTA chief executive Fergus Gammie resigned in December of 2018 and has not yet been permanently replaced.
In April, NZTA chair Michael Stiassny announced his resignation following the completion of the compliance review, saying his work shaking up the agency was complete.
Roche will serve for a three year term from June 2019. He previously served as board chair of NZTA in 2010.
As a condition of the job Roche resigned from a post at Wellington Gateway Partnership, a grouping of contractors who have significant business with NZTA.
He will remain on the board of City Rail Link Limited in Auckland, but told Stuff he would manage any conflict-of-interest issues with that project if they arose. At this stage none were foreseen.
Roche told Stuff NZTA had gone through a significant period of instability and he would be looking to right that as soon as possible.
“I think it is critical that any agency have stable leadership. NZTA is an incredibly important government agency, it has a significant influence on how the how country operates,” Roche said.
“One of the tasks ahead of me is to get that stability at a governance level and management level.”
He hoped to have a new chief executive in place within the next three months and to halt what was currently a high level of staff turnover.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said Roche brought the track record needed to the job.
“He brings a wealth of experience and a steady hand to transport sector governance, having previously chaired the Transport Agency and the Auckland Regional Transport Agency and is currently the chair of City Rail Link Limited,” Twyford said.
“The Transport Agency has a crucial role to play in creating a modern and sustainable transport network and I’m pleased to appoint someone of Sir Brian’s calibre to lead this work.
“There is currently a review of the Transport Agency’s regulatory functions underway, which the Government expects to receive shortly. A key focus for Sir Brian will be implementing the direction signalled from that review, and I am confident in Sir Brian’s ability to make that happen.”
“I’d like to thank interim chair Nick Rogers and acknowledge the work of the previous chair Michael Stiassny who uncovered and led the fixing of the Agency’s regulatory issues.”
Roche has a long track record in the public and private sector with roles at PWC, Housing NZ, NZ Post, several iwi, and the department of prime minister and cabinet.
National’s transport spokesman said he thought Roche would do a “good job” and after a period of “chaos” it was important NZTA had strong leadership.
“The critical thing is getting NZTA working effectively. Because it is a big part of the fact that they have been making extremely slow progress on major transport projects in the last 18 months,” Goldsmith said.
He hoped that an NZTA chief executive would be appointed “smartly” and that the agency stop the “revolving-door” of leadership.