In one of the smartest moves he has made, Health Minister David Clark has recruited Steve Maharey to be Pharmac’s chairman. Unlike many of the “Labour luvvies” being named these days to various panels and other well-paid jobs, Maharey has genuine credentials for the task.
He was one of the most effective ministers in the Clark government and then moved out of politics when he believed he had contributed all he could in that sphere. He subsequently had a stellar period in public service as Vice-chancellor of Massey University from 2008 to 2016.
As the fourth-ranked minister in Helen Clark’s Cabinet he held the positions of Minister of Education, Minister Responsible for the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Minister Responsible for Crown Research Institutes, Minister of Broadcasting, Minister Responsible for Television NZ, and Chair of the Cabinet Social Development Committee.
He served as MP for Palmerston North for 18 years from 1990.
He studied at Massey to graduate MA (Hons) and was a junior lecturer in business administration and a senior lecturer in sociology as well as being a Palmerston North city councillor before entering Parliament.
His teaching and publications helped influence the development of NZ sociology and formation of the fields of cultural studies and media studies in NZ. His academic interests include social policy (particularly social development), education, media and cultural studies, social change and politics.
In his two terms as vice-chancellor of Massey University, the institution – with three campuses – expanded to cater for 35,000 students. He made no secret of his ambition to turn it into a global player.
As Maharey saw it, Massey had a role in creating a better, more prosperous “new New Zealand”.
One of the initiatives in his period as vice-chancellor was FoodHQ, which, with the support of the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils, is creating a super campus comprising AgResearch, AsureQuality, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and the Bio Commerce Centre.
He saw Massey’s input as a “science power house”, with FoodHQ drawing on the expertise held in Massey’s College of Sciences and College of Health. He also sought to shape Massey’s Colleges of Business, Creative Arts, and Humanities and Social Sciences to ensure they had a role to play in making Massey “the engine of the new New Zealand”.
As the Health Minister said in naming him as Pharmac chair, “Steve Maharey is a hugely experienced leader with strong governance skills. He is fiercely intelligent and compassionate”.
Maharey takes over as chair this week from Stuart McLauchlan, whose term as chair expired on July 31. His appointment, for a three-year term, was confirmed by Cabinet on Monday.
David Clark says Pharmac plays a vital role in the public health service and is the reason New Zealanders pay some of the lowest prices in the world for pharmaceuticals.