In the last part of our series on the Super City's executive team, Bernard Orsman profiles the former Work and Income boss tasked with making the new council run smoothly.

Patricia Reade has come from helping more than one million underprivileged New Zealanders get control of their lives to helping 1.4 million Aucklanders get to grips with the Super City.

There are lots of similarities between her role as the head of Work and Income New Zealand (Winz) and chief operating officer for the Auckland Council.

Both jobs have involved people counting on her for help.

Most Aucklanders have had a bad experience with their council at one time or another. And given the public distrust for the Super City reforms - half of Aucklanders do not think a single council will be better managed than the eight existing councils - Ms Reade faces a tall order in the months and years ahead.

The 44-year-old, who was born in Fiji and educated at Carmel College at Milford on the North Shore, is well qualified to make a difference to service levels and cut the number of complaints to councils.

She had a long career with the New Zealand Employment Service, Winz, plus a stint seconded to the Department of Education and Employment in London where she worked on developing the New Deal, a flagship programme by the Blair Labour Government to tackle unemployment.

She took time away from the Ministry of Social Development in 2004 to completed a masters degree in public management, graduating in 2006.

At Winz, she found so much potential for things to go wrong dealing one-on-one in very personal circumstances, learning that things do not always go right but always aiming for a "brilliant recovery".

Ms Reade sees other similarities between her old and new jobs. First, the political interface between the organisation and elected representatives. Second, they are both large, complex organisations. Third, both have customers who expect and demand really good, cost-effective service.

"I see this as a privilege. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. I'm really excited about the difference we can make to be in on the ground and able to - along with Doug [McKay, council chief executive] and the team - create the type of culture we want in the organisation," said Ms Reade.

When it comes to making a difference, Ms Reade has started by setting high standards for her managers and aims to simplify and streamline service delivery.

For example, giving advice upfront for building and resource consents. Some councils, like Auckland City, have already done a lot of work in this area but Ms Reade wants to see consistent and improved service throughout the city.

Some service improvements will happen quickly - "I do think there is some low-hanging fruit we can pick off" - but Ms Reade is under no illusion that many back-end systems will take three to five years to integrate and cost a lot of money. "I feel really confident that there are gains to be made across all of the operational areas in terms of improved service to ratepayers."

Ms Reade said neither she nor her managers had all the answers and planned to tap into frontline staff to improve services, and adopt the best practices of the outgoing councils.

Her immediate priority, though, is getting through the first day of the Super City next Monday, and ensuring that the basics, such as the telephones, are working.

"That is on my shoulders. No one is going to care about our sexy plans if we don't get our credibility right for day one."

Come Monday, most frontline staff will be staying put at their current locations, but about 300 council staff will move to new offices.

By Christmas, 1000 staff will have moved into new digs. By April, all 8200 staff will be settled into offices and services centres throughout the city.

PATRICIA READE
* Age: 44.
* Born in Fiji and educated at Carmel College, Auckland.
* Deputy chief executive (responsible for work and income) at Ministry of Social Development 2006-10.
* Ministry of Social Development 1999-2004 (went on to complete masters degree in public management 2004-06).
* Worked at Department of Education and Employment, London 1998-99.
* Began public service as employment adviser with the Employment Service 1991.

THE SERIES
Monday: Doug McKay, chief executive.
Tuesday: Roger Blakeley, planning chief.
Yesterday: Andrew McKenzie, finance chief.
Today: Patricia Reade, operations chief.