Cash-strapped Christchurch City Council has today named its new chief executive.

Former Hillmorton High School student Dr Karleen Edwards is returning home to lead the council after a high-profile career in the Australasian health sector.

She will leave her current position as chief executive of the Commission for Hospital Improvement within the Victorian Department of Health to take up her new role, starting June 16.

Her annual salary is $395,000. It is a dramatic drop in salaries after the last chief executive, Tony Marryatt was given a pay rise of $68,000 in late 2011, taking his salary to $538,529 a year.


Mayor Lianne Dalziel says Dr Edwards' appointment is a significant milestone for the new council, which this week revealed it has underestimated its share of rebuilding the quake-shattered city by $534 million.

"The wait is over - and we could not be more pleased to have attracted someone with Karleen's professionalism and experience to this role."

For the past seven years, Dr Edwards has worked in a series of high profile roles within the Australian health sector including as Chief Executive of Central Northern Adelaide Health Services in South Australia where she was responsible for a staff of 16,000, a budget of $1.7 billion and an asset base of $2 billion.

The Otago University-trained psychiatrist has a Master of Business Administration with Distinction from Canterbury University and a proven track record in managing change within large complex organisations. While she was at Central Northern the organisation saved AU$32m within 18 months without compromising services, a city council statement says.

Ms Dalziel says it was clear from Dr Edwards' CV and references that she had a wealth of experience leading change within complex organisations under considerable pressure to reduce costs while improving services.

"Karleen will find herself in familiar territory in more ways than one," the mayor said.

Dr Edwards says she has returned home to Christchurch a number of times since the earthquakes to visit family.

"Each time I feel enormously proud of the people of our city in the way they are responding to the earthquakes and the ongoing effects this has on their daily lives," she said.

"At the same time I see enormous opportunities for Christchurch and feel so privileged to be able to contribute to the rebuild of the city I love."

Dr Edwards says as the new chief executive she can promise the people of Christchurch there will be "a relentless focus on delivery and service improvement" as well as prudent financial management.