Lifetime of public service
Our regional councillors do not have anything like the public profile of local councillors. Who are they, where have they come from, and why are they serving on the council? JIM CHIPP finds out and from time to time will profile one of them. This week: Ju
Judith Aitken is best known as the former chief executive of the Education Review Office.
These days she divides her time between Waikanae and Wellington, and represents Wellington on both Greater Wellington Regional Council and Capital & Coast District Health Board.
She says the people most in need have not changed.
‘‘In the case of health, [it is] exactly the same population that preoccupied my life 10 years ago . . . that same population that was suffering from poor quality schooling was also suffering from poor quality health services,’’ she said.
‘‘If you have got rheumatic fever you’re not going to do well at school. Everything in your life could be better.’’
Greater Wellington provides the physical environment in which good health could thrive, she said.
‘‘I had read enough about health that good environment and good health seemed to be prerequisites for young people,’’ Ms Aitken said.
‘‘The fact of the matter is that if you can’t read, you can’t do a huge amount in modern society. And in order to be able to read, you have got to be able to hear, and you can’t hear if your ears are blocked up.
‘‘What appals me is that the logic is so obvious and the remedy is so blindingly apparent.
‘‘The remedy is to have a thriving economy and thriving social economy.
‘‘You have to protect with every bit of strength you have the physical environment that should never be damaged in any way if the cost of that is human health or human wellbeing.’’
After retiring from the public service, Ms Aitken spent a year working in the education sector in New South Wales, but was appalled by the corruption she found and returned to New Zealand.
‘‘I wanted to work in public service in one form or another,’’ she said.
Former cabinet minister and Capital & Coast Health Board chairwoman Margaret Shields suggested she stand for the health board, and she progressed to the regional council.
During the present triennium, Ms Aitken expects to see the form of local government change in Wellington.
‘‘My personal preference is for retention of strong local government with strong regional government which provides an overall regime of regulatory management.
‘‘There is not one single issue that comes before regional council that wouldn’t benefit from much stronger regional governance.’’
Spatial or town planning should be moved up a tier to the regional council, rather than being overseen by city and district councils, in isolation of transport policy, she said.
‘‘I think we need to design a better way of regional governance and I don’t know what it will be, but it won’t be what they have in Auckland.’’
Ms Aitken wants to see the regional policy statements fully formalised by the end of this year because they will provide a robust statement for local government and private citizens.
She also wants the natural resource plan finalised by the end of the council’s triennium in 2013.
Service: Judith Aitken chairing a Capital & Coast District Health Board meeting.