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

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS -

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.

Photo: THE DO­MIN­ION POST

Ser­vice: Ju­dith Aitken chair­ing a Cap­i­tal & Coast District Health Board meet­ing.

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