Sir Jerry Mateparae is extending his life of service to the NZ community, moving into the role of chair of Chair of the Healthier Lives−He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge. He says the research being done in preventing some of the country’s worst diseases as fitting neatly with his own interest in an holistic view to living healthier lives.
Sir Jerry has already served NZ in leading roles, as chief of the NZ Defence Force, then as Governor-general, and most recently as NZ High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.
Yet clearly he believes there is more to be done in this life of service to the nation. In succeeding the inaugural chair of Healthier Lives, Dr Jenny McMahon, he says he is “rapt” with his new role after keeping track of the work Professor Jim Mann and Dr Jenny McMahon had been leading to achieve healthier lives for New Zealanders.
Accepting the new post, Sir Jerry appears keenly aware of the work done by Dr McMahon as inaugural chair. Over the last five years, she has played a pivotal role overseeing the establishment of Healthier Lives, introducing a co-governance arrangement with the Kāhui Māori and developing a targeted research strategy.
Professor Mann says establishing a true partnership between the Governance Group and Kāhui Māori has been a particular highlight.
Sir Jerry, with tribal affiliations to Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Kahungunu and links to Tūhoe and tribes in the upper Whanganui, brings his own perspective to that.
He has his own special expertise and networks to guide the research efforts aimed at equitably improving health and wellbeing for all New Zealanders. He has spent almost 50 years in public service, reaching the highest level of command in the NZ Defence Force after his distinguished career in the NZ Army.
He has attended military and civilian leadership and management courses, including courses with the NZ Institute of Directors and Institute of Strategic Leadership. He has a Master of Arts with first class honours from the University of Waikato, and was recognised by that University as one of its distinguished alumni in 2009.
In May 2011, Sir Jerry received an honorary doctorate from Massey University. He was awarded Singapore’s highest military award, the Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Tentera) [Distinguished Service Order (Military)], from the President of Singapore, S R Nathan, in May 2011. And in June that year, at Buckingham Palace, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of New Zealand, as a Grand Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. At the same time he became a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order.
Enlisting in the Army in 1972, he served in both battalions of the RNZIR and the SAS. Later he commanded a truce monitoring group in Bougainville. Other foreign service included in Southern Lebanon and East Timor, where he was joint commander of the NZ force as it moved to independence.
He became Army chief in 2002, before stepping up to be CDF in 2006, with the rank of lieutenant-general, the first of Maori descent to hold the rank and the post. Subsequently he served as director of the Government Security Communications Bureau.
Sir Jerry ranks up there as one of the greatest New Zealanders of his generation.