Bazley puts hard word on council staff

01:00, Apr 24 2010

The Government troubleshooter sent to fix Environment Canterbury (ECan) has told staff they will get only one chance, and should expect to work harder.

Dame Margaret Bazley, who has previously described her style as "ruthless" and "single-minded", addressed staff in a packed ECan cafeteria on the day the Government announced it would sack councillors and replace them with commissioners headed by her.

An attendee at the March 30 meeting, who declined to be named, said Bazley told staff they would get one chance – but not a second.

"It would be hard not to take it as a threat," the source said.

"I've never seen people so unsure of whether to clap or not. There was a mass exodus for the lifts."

Bazley told staff she was there to do what the Government had requested, and staff should expect to work harder.

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"She came in here to make her mark; to set the tone for the operation," the source said.

ECan has about 500 staff.

Bazley said her statements had been misconstrued.

Through an ECan spokesman, she said she had intended the comments to be positive, to reiterate that she was looking forward to working with ECan staff.

"If people have taken something else from it, I certainly did not intend that to be the case."

She saw her new role as "an exciting opportunity" and although her address was brief she said it was an early opportunity to "put people's minds at rest".

Bazley's various appointments have included the Waitangi Tribunal, an inquiry into police conduct and the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance.

Most recently she chaired the New Zealand Fire Services Commission.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said Bazley had been appointed to do a "pretty tough job".

"I would imagine, given the calibre of the bevy of commissioners, and they're a very capable bunch, there will be heavy demands on staff and I would expect they would respond," he said.

"Staff are going to have to hunker down and get on with the job, and there's some serious work to be done."

Christchurch MP Brendon Burns said Bazley was known for being "steely" and she had a track record as a "change manager".

Sacked ECan councillor Ross Little said the public did not realise how hard ECan's staff worked. "They're easy targets," he said.

The Press