10 May 2014

Christchurch debt manageable - new CEO

8:19 pm on 10 May 2014

Christchurch City Council's incoming chief executive believes there are ways the city can manage its way out of its half billion dollar debt.

Dr Karleen Edwards, who was born and raised in Christchurch, has been named as the council's new chief executive, eight months after the resignation of controversial CEO Tony Marryatt.

Dr Karleen Edwards

Dr Karleen Edwards Photo: SUPPLIED

The medical professional has a background in mental health work.

Dr Edwards said she was apprehensive about the enormity of the new role but believed there were ways to make the council efficient and effective.

She said it would be a challenge for the council to meet its funding gaps without reducing the quality of services it provided but that might mean changing those services.

Dr Edwards was deputy CEO at the Canterbury District Health Board for several years, until 2007.

Most recently she worked in Australia, as chief executive of the Commission for Hospital Improvement at the Victoria Department of Health.

Dr Edwards takes over the role from interim chief executive Jane Parfitt, who has filled in since September last year when Tony Marryatt resigned after the council was stripped of its building consents' accreditation.

She said there was a fantastic team at the council and a really strong and committed council to lead the process.

Advice for Dr Edwards

The Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce said Dr Edwards would need all her experience in cost-cutting while managing major restructuring.

The chamber's head, Peter Townsend, said he was heartened by the fact Dr Edwards was used to working in a cost-constrained environment while effecting major cultural change.

He said one of her first priorities would be getting the council on a solid financial footing and making it more responsive to its community.

Lobby group CanCern, which acts on behalf of quake-affected residents, said Dr Edwards would need to give the council a cultural makeover.

CanCern spokesperson Leanne Curtis said the fact she was being paid $143,529 less than her predecessor showed the council was starting to listen to the community.

She said Dr Edwards' first priority should be to lead cultural change at the council so the city could get on with rebuilding.

"So there've always been challenges in terms of how do you make services efficient, effective, be able to meet funding gaps without reducing the quality of services you're providing. There are ways to to do that in terms of how you redesign the things that you provide."

Dr Edwards will be paid $395,000, compared with Mr Marryatt's $538,000. She starts in June.