Key credits team for National's success

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2013
Wayne Eagleson
UNDER PRESSURE: John Key's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson.

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One of the most influential and important members of the National Government's inner circle is a man few people have heard of or seen.

In a revealing interview on the fifth anniversary of his Government, Prime Minister John Key has told how his chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, is at his side on all the big decisions - and says he is New Zealand's most "influential unelected" official.

Key also credits the close-knit team that he took into government with him from opposition, including former Treasury official Grant Johnston, former chief press secretary Kevin Taylor and close advisers Paula Oliver and Kelly Boxall, for much of the National Government's success.

Of his chief of staff, Key says he provides a depth of perspective and advice that is hard to match.

Eagleson was hired under former National leader Don Brash and stayed on when Key took over the leadership.

He and Key have forged a relationship as formidable as that between Helen Clark and her chief of staff, Heather Simpson, known as H2.

A former researcher and private secretary to former National leader Jim Bolger, Eagleson has worked for some of New Zealand's biggest companies, including DB Breweries, Westpac, and Transpower.

Key says there are few decisions he makes without Eagleson at his side.

"He is pretty much always [there]. There are some decisions in the end we just make and he doesn't come to Cabinet but every piece of paper I see, pretty much he sees."

After five years in government, Key also claims there are few secrets left in his life.

"I have a lot less [than five years ago]. If you realistically think about it, everything I do is analysed and reflected on. In a way what you see is what you get with me . . . I am who I am.

"Hopefully the job hasn't changed me too much. I like to think I'm a nice and approachable person and I want to stay that way because there is going to be a life after politics.

"And when I leave I'll think the experience has been an amazing privilege, but I don't want to feel . . . that I need to have the status of the job to be happy. I don't think that would be right. I wouldn't want to be like that."

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