Report reveals Wellington Mayor Andy Foster’s poor airport board meeting attendance

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster has missed almost half of Wellington International Airport’s board meetings.

One governance expert said that type of attendance record implied the director was not taking the appointment seriously.

Infratil owns 66 per cent of the airport with Wellington City Council owning the remaining 34 per cent. Foster has been a board member since 2016.

The airport’s 2021 annual report, published last week, reveals Foster has attended just four out of seven board meetings over the past financial year.

No one else on the board has missed a meeting. A council representative attended the meetings Foster was unable to make.

Board chairman Tim Brown said that representative was someone senior from council.

Council officers were kept regularly informed by the council’s other appointment to the Board, Wayne Eagleson, Brown said.

“Management is also available to discuss airport matters with councillors or officers at any time. Councillors have a standing invitation to contact the airport with any issues, concerns or briefing requests.”

Foster told the Herald there were occasions when there was a direct clash between board meetings and council meetings.

“Wherever possible I will seek to avoid that.”

Foster did not address questions about whether he considered his level of attendance to be acceptable.

The annual remuneration for Foster’s role on the board is $66,976, but he doesn’t pocket it himself.

A spokesperson for Foster’s office said the funds go straight to the Urban Design Cost Centre and from there support projects relating to the built environment.

Richard Westlake, managing director of Westlake Governance Limited and an experienced director and board chairman, said being a director carried significant responsibilities and risks.

“That type of attendance record implies the director doesn’t take the appointment seriously.”

Any director could miss one meeting a year or possibly two due to issues such as illness and a clash of commitments, Westlake said.

“But a rule of thumb used in governance says miss three and you’re gone, unless there are strong mitigating factors.”

Westlake said he thought the mayor, and leader of a significant shareholder in the airport, would have brought a helpful perspective to board deliberations.

“Boards don’t have room for passengers.”

It was also disruptive to have a board member who only appeared from time to time, he said.

“They’re not up to date with where the board’s thinking has progressed, and they may want to re-examine or re-litigate matters the board has already dealt with.”

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