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Lincoln medal for former Secretary of Labour

Lincoln medal for former Secretary of Labour

Former Secretary of Labour and long-serving Treasury official John Chetwin is Lincoln University’s Bledisloe Medal winner for 2004.

The award, introduced by Governor-General Lord Bledisloe in 1930, is Lincoln University’s top medal for outstanding contributions by an alumnus advancing New Zealand’s interests. It will be presented at the University’s Graduation Ceremony this Friday. (23 April)

Mr Chetwin’s sustained contributions to New Zealand spanned a public service career of 39 years, first with the Department of Agriculture, then with Treasury for 25 years, and finally with the Department of Labour from 1994 to 2003.

Raised in Dunedin and an honours graduate of Lincoln University in Agricultural Economics, Mr Chetwin joined the Treasury in 1969 and was soon a member of the team advising ministers on New Zealand’s strategy for negotiations with the British and European governments over Britain’s entry to the Common Market (now the European Union).

In 1971 he was seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as First Secretary (Economic) at the New Zealand High Commission in London. He was there for five years and as part of the New Zealand negotiating team played a seminal role in helping to obtain the best possible continued access for New Zealand to the British market and ensuring that the provisions for New Zealand were implemented effectively.

Resuming his Treasury career in New Zealand and subsequently promoted to Assistant Secretary he spent a period setting up the new Corporate Services function and leading a revamp of the Treasury’s organisation and management systems as a response to serious staff turnover and morale problems.

Promoted further to Deputy Secretary, managing the Industries Branch, he had overall responsibility for policy advice and implementation in the areas of State Owned Enterprises, agriculture, energy, transport, communication and natural resources. Later his responsibilities were extended to include management of the Government’s privatisation programme.

He was close to the heart of all the decision-making in State Owned Enterprises policy which saw a host of new “corps” come into being as modern, market-driven permutations of old public service departments.

He has described SOE policy as “an idea whose time had come”, and is remembered from this period as “the quintessential public servant … very measured and sage”.

In 1992 Mr Chetwin was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Treasury managing the Regulatory and Tax Policy Branch then in July 1994 he left the Treasury to become Secretary of Labour, succeeding one of his old Lincoln University contemporaries, Jas McKenzie.

As Secretary of Labour he was closely involved with the creation of Work and Income New Zealand, an amalgamation of the employment functions of the Labour Department and the Income Support arm of Social Welfare and Employment.

During his time the Department of Labour also developed the Human Capability Framework that has become the foundation for the broad area of Government human resource policies.

From 1995 to 2003 he led the New Zealand delegation to the annual conference of the Interventional Labour Organisation. Last year he was elected chairman of the ILO’s Committee on Human Resource Development and Training and he will be in that role again at this year’s conference.

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