Two outstanding women are appointed to top public service jobs

Outside  the  Wellington  Beltway,  not  much   attention  has been paid to  two key appointments in the state sector.   Both  posts  go to   outstanding  women  leaders  who  for  several  years  have  fulfilled  the  early  promise they  showed  in the public service.

After  a successful  career at the Ministry of  Foreign Affairs and Trade,  where   she has  been  serving Deputy Secretary, Multilateral and Legal Affairs Group,  Bernadette  Cavanagh  will  take over as  CEO  of  the  Ministry of Culture & Heritage  from February 1.  There   had been  speculation   Cavanagh, a   daughter of   former  PM  Jim Bolger,   could be a  candidate to  succeed  Brook Barrington as head of  MFAT  when  he  moves over to the DPMC.

The  other  key  appointment  by State Sector Commissioner  Peter Hughes   is to the  post of Comptroller  of Customs,  a  role    which has  assumed   increasing  importance  because of the  reliance on  border security and management in  protecting  the  NZ   economy.       

Christine Stevenson  will  take over  as Comptroller of Customs and CEO, NZ Customs Service,  on  January  1.   Hughes  says Stevenson is a public servant with a depth of experience who has managed large functions and operations requiring strong leadership. He cites her proven track record of delivering.

Point of Order  believes   both  Stevenson  and  Cavanagh  are  likely, after terms in their  new roles,   to be  promoted  to even more  senior roles in the  state  sector.

Stevenson is currently the Acting Comptroller of Customs, a job she has held since July 2017, although nominally she is Deputy CEO, Corrections, which she has held since January 2011. She was also the Independent Ministerial Advisor to the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission, Megan Woods, on speeding up the resolution of outstanding insurance claims arising from the Canterbury earthquakes.

The Comptroller of Customs leads a department of about 1200 staff. In 2018/19, the Customs operating budget was $230m.  Hughes says  Stevenson is a strong public service leader who leads with integrity and is driven by a spirit of service.

Earlier   in her  career Stevenson held a variety of senior roles at the Ministry of Social Development from 1999 and 2004, including CIO and CFO. Between 2004 and 2009 she was Deputy CEO, People Capability and Resources at the ministry.   She has attended the Stanford Executive Programme (Strategy and Organisation) and the ANZSOG Executive Fellows Programme.  She is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington.

In  naming  Cavanagh  as CEO  of the Culture and  Heritage Ministry,  Hughes noted  she is a career public servant with a record of delivery in complex and high-pressure environments.

She is a strong and principled leader who is committed to serving NZ through public service. She is experienced in working with Ministers and leaders in diverse sectors.”

She has had a successful career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, holding a number of overseas posts as well as significant leadership roles, including leading former Prime Minister the Helen Clark’s campaign for appointment to the role of UN Secretary-General.  Cavanagh was the Acting Deputy Permanent Representative at NZ’s Mission to the UN in New York and represented NZ as the High Commissioner to Singapore.

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, leads the government’s work in the arts, heritage, broadcasting and sports sectors. It provides advice on policy, legislation and sector development to ministers, while collaborating and partnering with NZ’s culture and heritage sectors.

The ministry funds and monitors 15 entities. It has an operating budget of $323m.

Hughes  says Cavanagh is a leader who instils trust and confidence and is able to get the best out of people.

She knows how to build relationships. Her expertise at the international level, and experience in navigating complex issues and delivering results have prepared her for this new role. Cavanagh is an intelligent and compassionate Public Service leader motivated by the spirit of service. She is well equipped to head up the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

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