|News and media|
Wise use of taxpayers' money advocated by accountant
By Heather Chappell
Maureen Chrystall oversees a budget of more than $1.1 billion and an organisation with a staff of around 6000 but with enough planning and organisation, still finds time for her passions of reading, cooking, sailing and gardening.
South African born and raised, Waikato District Health Board’s chief financial officer is formidably organised. Her day begins with checking emails at home before arriving at Waikato Hospital for a quick stroll through the Hockin Building, touching base with the 86-strong team involved in everything from payroll to financial analysis.
“My overriding imperative is to make sure we spend taxpayers’ money as wisely as possible,” she says. She appears to be achieving her goal, last year the DHB came in $9 million under budget.
Maureen, 54, moved to New Zealand in 1994 with three sons Ross, Greg and Doug because she could see no future for them in South Africa. The eldest is now 30 and the three live in Brisbane, London and Auckland respectively.
Her sons joke that the fourth, favourite and most expensive child is Zinkwazi , a 36-foot yacht she and kiwi partner Rob sail whenever they can. The couple are planning to sail Zinkwazi, which is moored in Auckland, to the remote Three Kings Islands, 55km northwest of Cape Reinga this coming summer.
“We’ve never been that far before,” she says, “often we don’t get more than a day's sail on the weekends.”
The rest of Maureen’s relaxation time is spent reading, cooking and gardening. Her taste in books is non-fiction, contemporary fiction, murder mystery and sci-fi. Best book read in the last year is New Zealander Lloyd Jones “Mister Pip”.
Cooking is experimental and fresh herbs are an important ingredient – recipes are considered as guides and inspiration rather than being a prescription.
An enthusiastic herb grower, she also has a worm farm, “so I can at least be a bit green”.
A positive outlook and love of the outdoors helps with the day-to-day stresses of a job that manages the financial health of one of New Zealand’s largest state-owned enterprises. An experienced accountant, she held a variety of roles in South Africa.
Her first job after arriving in New Zealand was at Auckland DHB where she worked for nine years. While there, she completed an MBA through the University of Waikato. She left in 2001 to work for media giant INL and then in 2004 to work as an independent contractor, some of it for Waikato DHB. She joined as the DHB’s chief financial officer in 2009.
“I’ve always worked as an accountant but I’m not someone who has ever had a ‘career’ as such, I’ve simply taken opportunities as they’ve come up,” she says. “When Craig (Climo, CEO) asked me to step in to cover for a period, it just turned out to be permanent.”
Her working life consists of a daily round of meetings, including with auditors and senior DHB management. She also talks regularly with Health Waikato chief operating officer Jan Adams and the man running Waikato Hospital’s multi-million dollar redevelopment and building programme, Ian Wolstencroft. Her immediate career plan involves seeing the $500 million programme to completion, still around five years away.
As a manager, Maureen believes in supporting staff to step up to more senior roles. “I actually think it’s really important that I’m not the only one who can do stuff and I build that into my planning,” she says.
While still some way off, she has no plans to stop working in retirement. Rob has already begun work on the first houseboat the couple plan to eventually run as a houseboat charter business.
“I love working but I’d also like to write non-fiction and we are planning to sail around New Zealand – probably in a number of steps over a few years,” she says.
* Heather Chappell is a Wintec journalism student.
Read more information on Waikato DHB strategy.