The Government has enlisted the aid of former Ministers, chief executives, top-ranking officials and mayors to help get the country's embattled District Health Boards back on firmer financial footing.

Former Finance Minister, and Tax Working Group chairman Sir Michael Cullen is among 76 new District Health Board (DHB) chairpersons or board members.

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The total District Health Board deficit $170 million higher than Govt had previously admitted

And he has a message for the man who now holds his old job.


"Hopefully the Minister of Finance is able to find additional resources [for DHBs] because it's clear that nearly every DHB has significant deficits due to the fact there was underfunding over a substantial period."

This comes as the total DHB deficit across the country continues to climb – reaching the $1 billion mark last month.

Health Minister David Clark said the influx of new board appointments represents a "significant changing of the guard".

"It is no secret that our DHBs face their challenges," he said.

In November, the Herald revealed the Government was forced to pour $370 million in extra emergency funding into DHBs after being warned hospital workers' pay could be affected without a bailout.

The Treasury also sounded the alarm, admitting the financial situation of the DHBs had the potential to shift the focus from health outcomes to financial management.

Clark promised that he would unveil "significant changes" in regards to the DHBs after news of the bailout broke.

Health Minister David Clark said the influx of new board appointments represents a
Health Minister David Clark said the influx of new board appointments represents a "significant changing of the guard". Photo / Mark Mitchell

Those changes were announced this morning, in the form of the new board appointees.


"District Health Boards play a vital role in delivering healthcare to New Zealanders. It's critical that they are well-led, and well-governed."

Clark has been forced to replace board chairs and members after they delivered poor financial results in the past.

"DHB board governance is not an easy job. It requires leadership, focus, a strong skill set and a commitment to delivering high-quality care for all New Zealanders."

The new boards officially start work on Monday.

"I expect the new DHB boards to deliver on the Government's clear expectations – in particular, robust financial management, improved services and good management of capital infrastructure."

Cullen will take over as the Bay of Plenty's DHB chairman, former Cabinet Minister Rick Barker will chair the West Coast DHB and former Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has been appointed as the Southern DHB chairman.

Cullen told the Herald his new role might be a challenge – but he feels well prepared.

"There is an old saying, all political careers end in failure and taking on a DHB is one of the ways to prove that might be true."

But he said the skills he learned as Finance Minister will help him through.

Of the 20 DHBs, just six chairs – Nelson Marlborough, South Canterbury, Wairarapa Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau – were reappointed for another three-year term.

Almost half of the new board members are women and four Māori board chairs have been appointed. Clark said it was important boards reflect the communities they serve.

For the first time, the number of Māori chairs and deputies reflects the proportion of the nation's Māori population.

Harry Burkhardt plastics manufacturing and recycling business managing director and Ngāti Kuri Trust Board chair has been made Northland DHB chairman.

Dr Jim Mather, a qualified accountant and former chief executive of Māori Television and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, will take over as Lakes DHB chairman.