Whitehead appointed Treasury secretary

1.30pm

John Whitehead, acting Treasury Secretary was today named the department's permanent secretary and chief executive.

Mr Whitehead, a career public servant with 27 years experience in the public sector, will take up his new Treasury Department role immediately, State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham said in a statement.

The former Treasury Secretary, Alan Bollard, resigned late last year to become governor of the Reserve Bank.

His previous roles in the Treasury Department have included director of tax policy and international economics, deputy secretary of the corporate branch, and deputy secretary of the regulatory and tax policy branch.

Before working in Treasury, Mr Whitehead, worked from 1977 to 1982 in the Parliamentary Labour Party Research Unit, and between 1985 and 1988 as economic adviser in the Prime Minister's Office under the Lange Government.

His party partisan status has been the subject of parliamentary questions in the past.

Mr Whitehead has served for four years as an economic counsellor at the New Zealand High Commission in London.

He has a BSc with Honours in Mathematics and a MCom with First Class Honours in Economics.

Mr Wintringham said Mr Whitehead had the intellectual capability and management skills to lead the central government agency.

"He has been deeply involved in policy development and implementation during his time at the Treasury, including for example CER, protection reform, exchange rate policies and fiscal responsibility.

"He has excellent relationship management skills and extensive experience in working with Government and other agencies at senior levels."

Mr Whitehead said in the statement he would continue the efforts initiated Dr Bollard to redesign the Treasury - to improve its capability and the range and quality of its advice provided to the Government.

The appointment of Mr Whitehead, 51, follows the Treasury tradition of appointing secretaries from within the organisation.

Dr Bollard was the first outsider to head Treasury in modern times.

Mr Whitehead's rivals were rumoured to be deputy secretary Iain Rennie and former Treasury staffer Mary Anne Thompson, number two in the Prime Minister's Department. Her boss Mark Prebble was also rumoured to be in the running. He lost out to Dr Bollard for the secretary's role in 1998.

Dr Thompson was highly regarded, had the ear of Prime Minister Helen Clark and would have been a ground-breaker as the first woman to head Treasury.

Treasury has been known in the past for an aggressive and confrontational atmosphere, which made some staff, especially women, uncomfortable.

But those attitudes changed under the leadership of Dr Bollard and Mr Whitehead, according to Treasury workers.

- NZPA

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