29 Jan 2019

Property sector insiders rally around Barclay

5:39 pm on 29 January 2019

KiwiBuild's former boss Stephen Barclay will be hard to replace, those in the property sector say.

Stephen Barclay, head of the KiwiBuild unit

Former head of KiwiBuild Stephen Barclay. Photo: RNZ / Patrick O'Meara

He was suspended from his role for more than two months late last year following complaints made to the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development [MHUD] chief executive Andrew Crisp.

Mr Barclay quit on 18 January. He said yesterday he felt he had no choice but to resign and is now taking the ministry and Mr Crisp to court, pursuing "a case of constructive dismissal".

A developer who did not want to be named told RNZ there had been a noticable slow down from the KiwiBuild Unit in turning around documentation since Mr Barclay went on leave in early November.

They said one proposal which should have taken three to four weeks had now taken three to four months.

The developer said Mr Barclay being stood aside couldn't have come at a worse time, as they were trying to build up speed under the programme.

They said whoever replaced him would have to be joined at the hip with Mr Crisp if things were to progress.

Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church said the employment dispute could have stemmed simply from differing perspectives on timeframes, or on what constitutes good management, between Mr Barclay and Mr Crisp, or those public servants working under him.

Mr Church said Mr Barclay is a person with vast private sector experience, who probably wasn't aware of the constraints of the public service.

"Which is much more sensitive to not just what people do, but the way in which they behave. So it may be something as simple as humour, or the way in which he has talked to particular staff.

"It might be perfectly acceptable in a private sector environment, but it's those sorts of things that lead to personal grievances and claims in the public sector."

Mr Church said he expected the government would find it difficult to secure a replacement who has enough experience in both the private and public sectors, and is also up to the challenge of delivering KiwiBuild.

"I'm not sure that such a person actually exists. In fact I'd go as far as to say that I suspect that's one of the reasons the relationship with Mr Barclay hasn't worked out."

Phil Twyford

Housing Minister Phil Twyford. Photo: RNZ

In a statement last night, Mr Barclay said he had KiwiBuild on track to meet its target of 1000 homes in the first year. He reiterated that point on Morning Report today, saying he doesn't see how that target has changed.

"By the time I was put on gardening leave... we were on target to meet those targets," he said.

"I cannot understand why... the number now is 300. That's half of what I thought the number was that we'd already achieved - not the end of year target but what we'd already achieved in terms of commitments by the sector to deliver by the end of October.

"Now they've gone back to 300, I don't know how they could do that."

Housing Minister Phil Twyford revealed the change in numbers last week.

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