I don't know if Derek Handley was the right guy for government Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – partly because I don't know exactly what a government CTO does.

But if Handley had a job offer and had moved his family back from New York then he is entitled to compensation and any blame here lies with the Government.

I have no special insight into the way the appointment process unfolded but when it leaked to the media it created two problems for the Government.


Read more: Handley to walk away with more than $100K for job he never started

The first and most obvious was it added to the list of Clare Curran's woes and no doubt weighed on her subsequent resignation as Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media.

But it also gave the local tech sector a heads-up about Handley's impending appointment.

The reaction was far from positive.

Handley is a tech entrepreneur and an expert in marketing – some would say self-marketing.

He styles himself in a futuristic "Silicon Valley" manner and is a popular speaker at entrepreneurial and tech events.

His track record as a wealth creator in the business world is more of a mixed bag.

He may well have done a great job in the role. I'm certain he would have grabbed attention and advocated passionately for future focused policy making within government.


But he has been New York based for several years and appears not to have had the grass- roots support from the local sector that anyone in this role will need.

Unfortunately it looks like the PM and her senior leadership team only became aware of how unpopular his appointment would be in the local industry, after he had been promised the job.

Perhaps the Government has been spared a greater PR disaster further down the track – but for now this look like a ridiculous balls-up on an issue which should really have been a nice fluffy, feel good sort of thing.

The real shame is that Xero founder Rod Drury – who first pitched the CTO idea in 2014 - has ruled himself out for the position.

In some respects, having just stepped away from running Xero last year, New Zealand's most successful tech entrepreneur would have been ideally placed to step in.

However, Drury is at a stage in his personal life where he has decided to take some time for himself and his family. He's earned that.

He's not politically well aligned with the current Government either. That shouldn't be insurmountable though - as Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon's appointment as chairman of the government's business council proves.

Right now Drury's no doubt contemplating what the next act of life looks like for him – probably from his surfboard out the back of clean point break somewhere.

Someone in Government needs to paddle out to him – if only to get some advice on defining the CTO role and resetting the appointment process.

In a Herald op-ed back in 2014 Drury wrote about the challenge of translating technology into good government policy.

"I believe the answer is to appoint a chief technology officer…similar to the chief science officer…but in the technology arena….A respected senior, international, technology leader at a point in their career where they want to give back."

That does kind of sound like him right now.

Perhaps the government CTO position would be better tailored specifically to suit an ideal candidate.

More of a part-time advisory position than a fulltime management job.

Drury would be ideal.

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