Dame Margaret Bazley

Dame Margaret Bazley is seen by many as the country’s most respected public servant and problem solver. She has demonstrated transformational leadership that has helped shape public policy and administration over a five-decade-long career.

Dame Margaret held senior leadership roles in the health sector, the State Services Commission, the Ministry of Transport, the Fire Service and the Department of Social Welfare. Dame Margaret’s time in the public service, during the 1980s and 1990s, placed her at the centre of reform and she was often brought in to initiate and lead profound change in an organisation.

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She is described as fierce, tough, apolitical and unwavering in her determination to do the right thing and her willingness to make tough calls. Throughout her career, from her time as a psychiatric nurse through to CEO roles, Dame Margaret has instinctively sought to reach out to local communities in a very practical way.

Before she left the nursing sector, Dame Margaret played a significant leadership role in the transfer of nursing education from hospitals into the education system. She is regarded by mental health nurses as a true pioneer.

She was instrumental in the development of the Ministry of Social Development and instigated Strengthening Families, a holistic community-based approach to help at- risk families access needed services and Welfare to Wellbeing, aimed at reducing welfare dependence. In the transport sector she helped lead de-regulation and also introduced initiatives that successfully reduced the road toll.She transformed the Fire Service into a world-leading organisation, focusing on prevention, with New Zealand now having the lowest rate of fire deaths of any country.

She was one of the first women to achieve very senior rank in the public sector in New Zealand and actively focussed on structural barriers to equal opportunities, providing advice and guidance, and introducing initiatives to give women access to senior positions.

She has been Chair of Environment Canterbury and the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, Registrar of MPs Pecuniary Interests and, a member of the Waitangi Tribunal. She was also Chair of the Foundation of Research Science and Technology. She has won an honorary doctorate and several fellowships, the Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and, in 1982, Air New Zealand Businesswoman of the Year.

Dame Margaret’s leadership has transformed public policy and administration in New Zealand. She is seen to be people focused, someone who listens to others, has determination to do the right thing and does not shy away from tough calls. ”