Hive News Tuesday: English unhappy with NZ Super Fund board over Orr's pay hike; Paper readers oppose merger

NZ Super Fund CEO Adrian Orr. Copyright Lynn Grieveson / Hive News

Bill English's frustration was on display yesterday over a 36% pay increase for Adrian Orr that was approved by the board of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund against English's wishes.

Documents obtained under the OIA and published in Sam Sachdeva's piece show English personally wrote "If asked, I will publicly state I opposed the increase" on the letter he was sent advising of the pay rise.

And he did just that yesterday, delivering a warning to the fund's board members about their potential reappointments and firing a shot across the bows of other boards in the process.

"I noted at the time that as the issue came up I would be publicly criticising the size of the increase and that's a matter that will be taken into account when it comes to reappointment of board members," English told his news conference when asked about it.

Catherine Savage is the Chair and her fellow directors are Lindsay Wright, Craig Ansley, Pip Dunphy, Stephen Moir, John Williamson and Doug Pearce.

"The Government has a view. The board has taken a different view. Any board who takes a different view when it's a 100% subsdiary takes risks about tenure, and that will be discussed when appointments come up," English said.

English said other boards of SOEs had also taken an independent view on remuneration.

He said his view was no reflection on the performance of the fund or the professional competence of the board of the NZ Super Fund.

'Curb your enthusiasm for your CEOs'

English said he wanted to find a more stable process for the three or four significant appointments of the highest paid state sector CEOs, including the NZ Super Fund, Housing NZ, ACC and the Reserve Bank -- all of which have balance sheets of over NZ$20 billion.

"With the time there is available for the Reserve Bank Governor appointment, there is the opportunity to try to get a longer term view than a kind of annual haggle with a board who are rightly saying their chief executive is very competent, but is a little over-enthusiastic about what they should be paid," he said.

"It may be better to, for instance, set a level at the start of an appointment and leave it at that. We've got four of these very large public organisations where this issue keeps coming up, because they're benchmarked against a standard that's not the local standard."

English said boards often compared salaries with those of overseas CEOs for these large organisations, but he said there were always plenty of applicants for these roles.

The irony in the Reserve Bank situation is that Orr is seen as the leading local candidate for the Governor's job, although it would involve a near-halving of his salary from well over NZ$1 million and move back to Wellington from Auckland.

Newspaper readers don't want NZME-Fairfax merger

Ahead of a Commerce Commission decision due on March 15 (but expected to be delayed again), an an online opinion poll has found that 43.6% of respondents opposed the merger of NZME and Fairfax NZ, while just 14.7% approved it.

The Horizon Research survey of 1,009 respondents found 56.7% of newspaper readers opposed the merger and 52.1% agreed with the statement that the merger would mean that too few people would control the news. The survey found 32% believed strong competition between news media was important to them.

While you were sleeping...

The Washington Post detailed Donald Trump's connections with a Russian-born businessman who was convicted of a Mafia-orchestrated stock fraud scheme (and served time for stabbing a man in the face).

Meanwhile, Trump selected military strategist HR McMaster to replace the fired Michael Flynn as his National Security Adviser (NYT) and doubled down on his comments about Swedish immigrants, referring to a Fox News report he had seen about migrant crime there. Swedish crime statistics show Trump and Fox News are wrong.

French bond yields rose sharply to five year highs relative to German bond yields after an opinion poll showed Marine Le Pen would clearly win the first round of French Presidential elections in May and was gaining ground on the centrist independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, who most had thought she would lose to in the second round. (CityAM)

Have a great day.