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Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 22 May 2009

Board Meetings Or Public Meetings?
Earlier this week I received an email about the proposed merger of the Crown Research Institute AgResearch with Lincoln University near Christchurch.

The idea behind the merger was to create a world-class land-based university that would support research, education and a focus on New Zealand's primary industries. According to AgResearch Chair Sam Robinson and Lincoln Chancellor Tom Lambie in March, both organisations supported the proposal in principle as it would create a:

" ... substantially enhanced Lincoln University with a specific and deep focus on land utilisation and associated environmental and social integrity throughout New Zealand."

According to the email I received, however, it appears that not everyone is supportive of the merger and - officials having cast their eye over the proposal - there is some resistance on the basis of cost.

In these uncertain economic times, cost-effectiveness must be considered throughout all State institutions. Ideally, all spending of taxpayers' money should undergo this consideration. For too long, however, it appears that this has not been the case. For instance: good governance practices suggest that tertiary education institution boards should consist of no more than 10 members - yet most have often double that number, or more.

Among those institutions are AUT, with 21 board members; Auckland University (18), Waikato University (17), Victoria University (20), and Otago University (20). Rather than governance bodies, these boards have become pseudo-management committees - complete with representatives of staff, unions, students, stakeholders and a myriad of others.

And the problem is not isolated merely to universities. In 2004 I commented in Heather Roy's Diary that New Zealand's largest Public Health Organisation - Partnership Health Canterbury - had opened for business with no fewer than 19 board members.

I raised the question then, and do so again now, as to just what such a large board - not just in health or tertiary education but in any State sector (or the private sector for that matter) - could truly hope to achieve in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

How quickly could issues be resolved and decisions made when, with so many around the table, board members would struggle to be heard. In truth, having so many members would see board meetings more akin to a public meeting.

Good governance depends on rational decision-making and cost-effectiveness - a principle recognised and followed in the private sector. Take for instance three New Zealand private companies and their numbers of board members: Mainfreight (eight), Telecom (seven) and Southern Cross Healthcare (eight).

How is it viable for a university, polytechnic - or any organisation - to have 17-plus board members when a far larger organisation like the entire city of Tauranga (our fifth largest centre ahead of Dunedin) has only 11 Councillors?

If there are concerns about the cost of AgResearch merging with Lincoln, we should consider reducing its board to a more cost-effective and efficient number. Implementing this across the entire tertiary education sector - indeed, across the entire public sector - would result in cost savings across the board - and quite possibly a much improved decision-making environment.

Lest We Forget - German Paratroopers Assault Crete (May 20 1941)
On Wednesday I had the honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Government to commemorate the Battle for Crete - one of WWII's most dramatic battles. I was privileged to be in the company of six veterans, all over 90, who had amazing and often horrifying stories.

When the defence of Greece failed in April 1941 the Allies looked to Crete, with Major General Freyberg in command of ‘Creforce': over 42,000 British troops, and more than 7,700 New Zealanders - including the 28th Maori Battalion, for whom Crete would become especially significant.

Allied intelligence knew when the German assault would come and was ready when hundreds of German planes filled the sky to disgorge paratroopers around Maleme and Chania from dawn on May 20.

Germany had under-estimated the defenders' strength and casualties mounted rapidly - Allied troops killed many paratroopers before they reached the ground, or as their equipment tangled in trees. Around 60 percent of one German battalion was killed that day. Having gained a foothold near Maleme, but taken less area than expected, the Germans decided to concentrate on Maleme to ensure possession of the airfield.

The move was a good one: the New Zealand troops defending the airfield and the high ground above had withdrawn. This proved a decisive event in the battle - German transport planes almost immediately began landing troops and tipped the balance the German way.

German air superiority left the defenders facing impossible odds and, after six days of hard fighting, the Allies had to evacuate. Parts of Creforce pulled back to Sfakia, from where about 16,000 troops left over four nights. A separate evacuation took non-Greek defenders from Heraklion, but lost many in bombing attacks on the way to Egypt.

Those who remained were taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in POW camps - first in Italy, then Germany or Poland. Some escaped from captivity, taking to the hills and eluding capture for the rest of the war. Cretan civilians took huge risks to feed and aid them. This week's memorial service was a fitting reminder of their generosity and bravery.


ATC Association Of New Zealand National Council

Posted on 16 May 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to the Air Training Corps Association of New Zealand National council; Trentham; Saturday, May 16 2009.

Air Marshal Sir Richard Bolt, Air Vice Marshal Peter Adamson, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning and thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning.

The Air Training Corps enjoys a proud history. While you officially came into existence in 1941, the ancestry of the New Zealand Cadet Forces traces back to the first school-based unit in Otago in 1864. I was particularly pleased to have cadets included in my delegated authorities as Associate Minister of Defence and I certainly didn't wait around for the formalities to be complete before getting stuck in to learning more about your people, systems and structure.

Since last year's election, I have reviewed the No 17 (City of Christchurch) Squadron end of year parade, visited the National Aviation Course at Woodbourne and the outdoor leadership courses at Dip Flat. I was briefed on the NZCF during the two days I spent there with Wing Commander Guy Bendall and his team. I was impressed, on each occasion, at the commitment and enthusiasm of the people I met - from regular force personnel to cadet force officers, support staff and parents. However, it is the cadets themselves who amaze me most.

At Dip Flat, we tramped for about 20 minutes to get to where the cadets were overnighting. We found them setting up shelters and preparing meals after a day-long navigation exercise. There were no vending machines, takeaways, cellphones or ipods but they were all smiling and keen to chat about what they were up to. It has become commonplace, in our society, to hear discussions about the youth of today being lazy, negative, unmotivated and the like. What I tell people who make those comments is to go and spend some time with their local cadet unit. We know that the vast majority of cadets are impressive young kiwis.

Unfortunately, there has been undue focus by politicians and social agencies, over the last 20 years, on youth at risk. I believe that the greatest risk to youth is actually the use of that term. While hundreds of millions of dollars has been poured into programmes that focus on ambulances at the bottom of the cliff, very little has been put into rewarding success and reinforcing the behaviours that we wish our young people to display. This sends teenagers all the wrong signals.

Developing good citizens hasn't changed in thousands of years - it requires leadership. This involves the building of relationships based on trust and consistency. It also involves exposing our young people to role models who represent the way we would like them to be. This means consistently demonstrating the values on which they should base their individual personalities. One parenting coach described it in terms of three things that teenagers want to know:

1 Who's in charge?
2 What are the rules?
3 Will the rules be enforced fairly for all?

That's why organisations such as ATCANZ are fundamental to New Zealand society. In your role as a stakeholder in the Cadet Force Charter, you are facilitating the day-to-day operations of the officers, civilian instructors and parent support committees in ATC squadrons throughout the country. By doing so, you are enabling them to provide the leadership that has made a difference to thousands of teenagers over nearly 70 years. I know that you are all volunteers and have made sacrifices to undertake your roles and, for that, I wish to thank you.

For many years, the subject of funding for cadets has been discussed. The introduction of accrual accounting and closure of Defence Force facilities since the early 1990s has put further financial pressure on units. When combined with the difficulty that all community groups have in raising money, it is clear that the situation cannot be allowed to continue. There are approximately 5,000 cadets across the three service streams and this makes the NZCF a major New Zealand youth programme. Just imagine what could be achieved if 10% of the funds currently spread across dozens of ministries, departments and programmes for youth at risk was instead applied to your activities. Little would change in those other programmes but much would be gained in rewarding successful teenagers such as ATC cadets.

As part of Defence Review '09, I am leading three companion studies, of which two are of direct relevance to you. These are:

* The role of the NZ Defence Force in Youth Programmes and the NZ Cadet Force; and
* Voluntary National Service, including examining future options for a whole of Government strategy.

The way in which Government funds the NZCF will be examined in detail as part of this study and you will have the opportunity to provide information to the review team. The terms of reference for these studies will be released soon and they are targeted for completion by early next year.

I can see that today's programme is very full and so I will close by thanking you for your ongoing contribution to our country's future. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and they definitely do make a difference.


Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 15 May 2009

Reinforcing Faith In New Zealand Society
A 'Dominion Post' article caught my eye this week and got me thinking about what it is that sets New Zealanders apart. The article was about Kiwi physiotherapist and former Wellingtonian Damon Newrick - now living in London - who recently received a commendation from police for rescuing a woman from three brutal attackers.

According to the article, Damon was having dinner at his North London flat when he heard a scream. He raced downstairs to find a woman being strangled by three "quite large" men and covered in blood from where her attackers had torn out her earrings.

While onlookers stood idly by, Damon - despite being outnumbered - shouted at the men to leave the woman alone and tackled one of them. He pulled the woman inside his building and held the door closed while the men attempted to kick it in. As the glass began to give way, he pushed the woman up the stairs and prepared for the worst.

Once inside, however, the men grabbed a set of keys they had dropped and fled.

Pleasing as it was to read that the hero of the day was a New Zealander, I have to admit that I was not surprised to read of yet another Kiwi who saved the day while others did nothing.

All too often our attention is captured by the negative aspects of our society. The stories that are most often newsworthy tend to focus on troubled young people, or those who are in trouble. There is a general feeling that our country and our society have hit rock bottom.

At times it is easy to lose sight of the fact that incidents like these are exceptions, rather than the rule. But it is stories like that of Damon Newrick that serve to remind us of the true state of New Zealand society and the nature of New Zealanders at home and abroad.

Throughout the world, New Zealanders are respected as fine ambassadors for our country - people like Willie Apiata and Sir Edmund Hillary spring instantly to mind but there is any number of fine examples.

Then there are those who serve our country with pride and bravery as our internationally respected Defence Force servicemen and women do. Those achieving great physical feats and exhibiting selfless actions serve to improve our society and others.

Also respected overseas are our police, firefighters, ex-patriots, and young Kiwis travelling on their OEs - all carrying with them the values and morals instilled in us since birth. This was highlighted when Damon Newrick attributed his actions to his upbringing:

"That's just what we got taught; you help where you can. The one thing that went through my mind was, 'I can't ring up Dad and say I saw this thing happen but didn't really help."

Following the 'Dominion Post' article, I wrote an article of my own about Damon and posted it on my blog ( I've never met Damon but he saw my article and later emailed me (, saying:

"I come from a largely typical New Zealand family, with my sister and I being brought up in Upper Hutt and attending the local Catholic schools. The values that were instilled in me and my friends by parents, teachers and the community as we grew up are still carried with us around the world today ...

" ... while talking to one of the policemen involved in the case, it was mentioned that all too often the people who step to assist in incidents such as the one I was involved in are in fact either New Zealanders or Australians ... everyday, I am a proud Kiwi taking a message to the world about the way we do things back in New Zealand."

This selfless bravery and humble response to the subsequent attention are the hallmarks of New Zealand society. Rather than play to the limelight we prefer to simply put our heads down and continue on with our lives.

So what is it that makes Kiwis different? Our 'No 8 Wire' mentality, perhaps, combined with our inherent knowledge of right and wrong? Others see incidents like this and have a choice to make; New Zealanders like Damon Newrick see no such decision - they act instinctively and do the right thing, and many other Kiwis around the world behave similarly when the need has arisen.

As a result of his courage Damon has received a commendation from London police for bravery, and once again the regard in which our country is held is reinforced around the world.

Lest We Forget - Charles Upham Awarded VC And Bar (May 11 1945)
Born in Christchurch, Charles Upham volunteered for service at the outbreak of WWII and to this day symbolises what many New Zealanders view as the essential qualities of the typical New Zealand soldier.

Upham developed these qualities as a Canterbury high country musterer, and reports at the time attributed New Zealand's success in war to the rigours of rural life - in which one had to be physically and mentally rugged to cope with ruggedness of the land around them.

Fiercely loyal to his comrades, Upham earned his VC in Crete in 1941 and his Bar at Ruweisat Ridge in 1942. Severely wounded at Ruweisat Ridge, he was captured by the Germans and made a failed escape attempt while recuperating in an Italian hospital. He was then transferred to Germany in September 1943. In 1944, following a daring solo attempt to scale his POW camp's barbed-wire fence in broad daylight, he became the only New Zealand combatant officer sent to the notorious Colditz camp.

Always averse to the limelight, Upham was reportedly distressed when he was later informed of his first VC for outstanding gallantry and leadership in Crete. Believing that others deserved it more and reluctant to be singled out, he could only accept the award by seeing it as recognition of the bravery and service of his entire unit.

When Major-General Howard Kippenberger recommended Upham for a second VC, King George VI responded that a Bar to the VC would be unusual. When he asked if Upham deserved it, Kippenberger replied that Upham had earned the VC several times over.

Upham later attended Buckingham Palace and became the first, and to this day only, combat soldier to be awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross − the highest British decoration for members of the New Zealand armed forces for valour on active service.


Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 08 May 2009

Employment issues have been a hot topic in the media over recent months ranging from staffing cuts to the Prime Minister's Jobs Summit. This week's Diary is written by guest columnist Justin Brown. Justin has worked in radio for the past 16 years. He is a sports and travel nut, and has also written books - including 'Kiwi Speak' and 'UK on a G-String'. More info on Justin can be found at

Celebrating Innovation - Justin Brown
Having worked for the same company for 10 years I thought my job was pretty safe - like many Kiwis in the past six months, however, I recently got the dreaded tap on the shoulder.

It was nothing to do with my performance, they said, and everything to do with money. With a three and five-year-old to clothe and feed, I initially panicked, but then decided to be proactive. I refused to become a victim of the Great Worldwide Recession.

I wanted to show others that innovation does not die with jobs.

And was the result.

The site celebrates those companies that are doing extraordinary things to sustain their business - rather than hatcheting staff - and, most importantly, shows others how they're doing it.

What do companies get out of joining the club? The chance to show their customers, staff, competitors and other businesses that they haven't become a victim of the recession, and that they have plans and know-how to - not only survive, but - thrive in the long term.

The site has only been live for three weeks and, so far, 29 businesses have joined the movement. I remember John Key saying he wanted to see optimistic initiatives to see us through this recession; this is my way of saying there IS light at the end of the tunnel.

I've had some great responses from businesses who like the idea of hanging out with other companies that focus on the good stuff rather than doom and gloom. One advertising firm says: "It's like being in a family. We also feel if we're an early adopter we could be part of something enormous."

I'm aware that many companies, in order to survive, have to lay off good people. This is always unfortunate. But is about celebrating companies that have been innovative enough to retain staff in bad times, knowing they'll need them again when times are good.

As anyone who has been laid off will testify, it is not an easy time. For every high, there are 10 times as many lows. Your identity is stripped. Much of my time at the moment, however, is dedicated to getting your business noticed.

I've talked about on 'TVNZ Breakfast,' TV3's 'Sunrise,' 'TV3 News,' 'The Weekend Herald,' 'M2 Magazine,' and 'Radio Live.' Richard Quest - from CNN's 'Quest Means Business' - has also been in touch, as have producers from the 'Discovery Channel.' So, before this goes global, let's put all those World Famous Kiwi companies where they should be - at the top of the page!

No wonder the media wants good news. After all, just because it's a recession, doesn't mean it needs to be a depression. So if you're one of those companies that have managed to save your staff during such trying times, you need to be celebrated.

Just email me and we'll get you started. Thanks for reading - and all the best with your business this year.

Lest We Forget - Employment Contracts Act (May 15 1991)
On May 15 1991, the Employment Contracts Act (ECA) came into effect.

Passed by the fourth National Government, the law remained in force until it was repealed by the fifth Labour Government and replaced with the Employment Relations Act.

Designed to strengthen the direct relationship between employees and their employers, the Act reduced legislative backing for unions and removed the obstacles to different types of employment contract and working arrangements.

In doing so, the ECA substantially changed the way employees and employers negotiated and contracted. Union membership dropped significantly, as did the proportion of the workforce covered by multi-employer collective employment contracts.

The content of employment contracts also changed - including more flexible work practices, greater multi-skilling and increased use of performance pay. Rates for overtime and penal rates also dropped.

Employers who made such changes were more likely to report actual improvements of labour productivity and operational flexibility, as well as increased employment as a result of the Act - especially part-time and casual employment, but also full-time employment.


Chief Of Army - Change Of Command

Posted on 04 May 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to Chief of Army Change of Command Ceremony and Farewell to Major General Louis Gardiner ONZM; Waiouru Military Camp, Waiouru; Thursday, April 30 2009.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

It is my great pleasure to participate in today's ceremony as the representative of the New Zealand Government. We have welcomed the new Chief of Army, Major General Rhys Jones, and I look forward to continuing the working relationship we developed in his position as Joint Force Commander.

However, it is with both pleasure and sadness that I join with you all to farewell the outgoing Chief of Army.

Time - so they say - goes by faster as you get older.

I first met General Lou three years ago. It was here at Rongomaraeroa o Nga Hau e Wha, the New Zealand Army Marae. I was a recruit on basic training. He was the newly chosen rangatira of Ngati Tumatauenga.

I remember the same man I see now: tall, smiling and self-effacing; projecting warmth that few associate with the profession of arms.

It is with both pleasure and sadness that I join with you all to farewell our Chief of Army.

Throughout history there have always been soldiers. However, there are few warriors. The soldiers are obvious by their uniforms and badges. The latter are recognisable by their spirit - by their personal presence. Soldiers are very good at knowing who they will trust their lives and the lives of their children to. They entrust them to the warriors.

General Lou - from my first impressions as a recruit to getting to know you better as Minister - I have never doubted that I would be happy to go to war with you and equally confident that you would care for the lives of other Kiwis whose lives were entrusted to you.

You took the rudder of this waka in troubled waters.

The Army was having ongoing difficulty recruiting and retaining soldiers and was under great duress meeting the demands of politicians both operationally and financially. Instead of fighting the problem - you embraced it. You danced with it.

You took the toughest course that any Chief can take in a culture that stands for decisive action.

You said: "Steady! I have the rudder and we will hold our heading and do the basics well."

And you have achieved that without doubt. The New Zealand Army is the better for your leadership, your wisdom and your patience. It is also the better for the many systems you have left in place in order to pass those values on to younger generations of military leaders.

Your surname comes from the Saxon word 'Gar' - meaning a weapon. You began your military career in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps. Your corps motto then was "To the Warrior - His Arms."

I know that your greatest weapon is your mind - hence the nature of my presentation to you earlier today.

I will miss our chats, both around Parliament and also on the many visits we participated in together. Go well, departing rangatira of Ngati Tu. I wish you, your wife Judith, and your three children - Matthew, Erin and Benjamin - many sunrises together.

Sua Tela Tonanti: To the Warrior - His Arms.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


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