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Appointment of Aussie under fire

The appointment of an Australian as Secretary of New Zealand’s Treasury is causing controversy, with a Victoria University of Wellington academic wondering why suitable New Zealanders could not be found for the position.

Director of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at the University, Dr Simon Chapple said Dr Caralee McLiesh (pictured) was the second non-Kiwi in succession to be appointed to the key post, revealing “deep problems” in the Public Service.

“McLiesh is an Australian who does not appear to have worked or lived in New Zealand for any length of time,” Dr Chapple said.

“The previous incumbent, Gabriel Makhlouf — not universally acknowledged as an overwhelming success — was British and had a modicum of local experience when he was appointed.”

Dr Chapple said one would imagine a deep knowledge of New Zealand’s economic, social and political history was a sine qua non for any Public Service Chief Executive, let alone the Treasury Secretary.

“One would imagine very strong and deep local networks in a wide variety of directions would be givens for any appointee — again, apparently not,” Dr Chapple said.

“I think this sort of knowledge matters to job performance of the Treasury Secretary, and I suspect it matters a lot.”

He said he also suspected the lack of this knowledge contributed to Makhlouf’s mixed performance.

Dr Chapple said not having this background knowledge did not guarantee Dr McLiesh would fail in her new job.

“I hope she will succeed,” Dr Chapple said.

“Nonetheless, at a minimum, she will be on an incredibly steep and long-duration learning curve on multiple fronts when she takes up her post.”

Wellington, 27 June 2019