The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union looks to be set for a stoush with NZTech over the issue of the government’s yet-to be appointed chief technology officer.
The Government announced plans to appoint someone to the role in November 2017 and restarted its search in May after announcing in February that it had failed to find a suitable candidate in the first round of applicants.
Communications Minister Clare Curran has now told a parliamentary select committee that she hopes to fill the role by the beginning of August from the 72 applications in this second round. She said the role would carry a salary of up to $400,000 and come with a $100,000 travel budget.
Reports of her statements prompted the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union to question the need for the role. Spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke said: “The Government hasn’t actually proven the need to fork out $500,000 per year for a chief tech-head.”
She said the move looked like “expensive tokenism” and it would be far cheaper for the Government to directly consult with the sector.
“The fact so many people have applied and been rejected suggests the minister isn’t even sure what she wants. The Government risks employing a has-been, or getting duped by someone who’s all hype without commercial nous or knowledge of New Zealand,” Houlbrooke said.
“If there’s really no suitable talent, it’s not hard to guess why. Anyone qualified to earn this kind of money in technology will be doing far more exciting things than whatever the New Zealand Government can cook up.”
Back in February NZTech CEO Graeme Muller told the Digital Nations Summit in Auckland that the role was extremely important.
"There are so many areas that are critical for the future of this country where a chief technology officer can make a difference,” he said. “At the summit we’re talking about our future society, education, the workforce, health, finance and all the industry sectors.
"The chief technology officer needs to be able to bring together government, business and communities so we have a cohesive approach to agreeing on the important challenges and opportunities facing our country.”
He said the role did not necessarily need “the best tech expert,” rather “it needs a leader and collaborator who gets both the social and economic imperatives."
He added: “Technology is such an important part of day-to-day life for all New Zealanders, meaning that just about everyone has a stake in the successful appointment of a CTO as we respond to the challenges of our changing digital world.”