Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Spotlight falls on quiet achiever

Dame Patsy Reddy is perhaps the least well-known person in modern times to be appointed Governor-General.

She is not an ex-mayor, judge, top soldier, archbishop, or a former Prime Minister.

"Corporate governance specialist" doesn't quite have the recognition previous Representatives of the Queen had.

Her CV is a long roll-call of board jobs that have essentially been out of the limelight.

One job she will have to give up before starting is chairwoman of the New Zealand Film Commission, a role that combines her corporate governance expertise with her love of film.

She is a distant cousin of Australian singer Helen Reddy (I Am Woman) - three Irish brothers went three ways, one to Canada, one to Australia and one to New Zealand.

But she had a classically ordinary childhood. She was raised by her teacher parents at Te Akau and Minginui and then Hamilton from the age of 6.

They were parents who placed no limits on her and her younger sister's ambition.

"I guess what they did teach me was that I could do anything," she said.

"I didn't have brothers and as far as I was concerned, and as far as my parents were concerned, there was nothing I wouldn't be able to do.

"My mother always worked and in the 1950s and 1960s that was pretty unusual.

"She felt very strongly about equality for women in an era when there wasn't much."

Dame Patsy studied law at Victoria University in Wellington when Australian feminist and author Germaine Greer came to town.

"I was extremely taken by her passion and messages," she said.

"Then there was the 1975 United Nations Convention on Women and I admired hugely the New Zealand women that went to that," she said.

She said one of the most important values her parents imparted to her was "being authentic and honest and proud of what you do".

She was part of Brierleys during its corporate raiding heyday but remembers it with great pride, especially her work in developing SkyCity.

"I was involved from when the licence was first granted as a project manager for Brierleys in terms of the construction process, acquiring Harrahs as a partner and the sale and flotations of SkyCity on the stock exchange," she said.

She was then on the board of SkyCity.

In her press conference with Prime Minister John Key yesterday, Dame Patsy pledged to "uphold the values of the Treaty of Waitangi" as the founding document of NZ.

She said later the Treaty "makes us who we are".

Dame Patsy will start her new role on September 14.

Peters: It's a diversion

Prime Minister John Key has been accused of timing the announcement of the new Governor-General to distract from the flag referendum result due this week.

NZ First leader Winston Peters lashed out at yesterday's announcement, saying it had been made to divert attention from the flag referendum.

Preliminary results on the vote are due Thursday night.

"The PM has finally absorbed the fact he is going to lose the flag referendum so has used the media to downplay the impending result before he shoots offshore to escape any further embarrassment," Mr Peters said.

However, Mr Key said the confirmation Dame Patsy Reddy would take the role - earlier revealed in the Herald - was done according to standard timelines.

"He probably doesn't understand the way the timetable works ... the announcement was always going to be around this time."

Asked about Mr Peters' claims that the Prime Minister had arranged a leak to the media about the likely candidates for the Governor-General job, Mr Key said he was surprised that the Herald had named Dame Patsy.

"As I understand it, they might have gone and [phoned] a whole lot of people and eventually worked out who it is," said Mr Key. "We certainly didn't leak it."

The Prime Minister will travel to Washington soon after holding a press conference on the flag result on Thursday night.

It is understood he will be taking some time off before attending a Nuclear Security Summit.

Dame Patsy Reddy

• Aged 61

• Married to Sir David Gascoigne, former Judicial Conduct Commissioner.

• Recent work: Co-reviewer of NZ intelligence agency legislation with Sir Michael Cullen.

• Chair of Film Commission, deputy chair of NZ Transport Agency, chief negotiator for Treaty Settlements in Bay of Plenty.

• Barrister and solicitor, professional director 20 years.

• Former partner in law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and former law lecturer.

- NZ Herald

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