New Ombudsman values academic links

30 May 2013

University of Auckland Law Professor Ron Paterson begins his five year term as Ombudsman on 4 June 2013, and looks forward to maintaining close relations with the Law School.

Professor Paterson has spent half of his career in legal education and half in health policy and regulation, preparing him well for this new role. He believes it would be good to see more movement of academics into public roles.

“Teaching, research, writing and public speaking equips you well for public service. There is a great pool of talent across the University able to contribute to public life. I believe a lot of University academics underestimate how valuable their skills are in this respect.

“It’s good for public administration and it enriches the University. You acquire very useful skills as an academic, researcher, and teacher. And conversely, moving back from public administration roles, you have applied skills that give new insights and dimensions to your teaching and research.

“I see opportunities for colleagues and students to be involved in the office. There is a strong Public Law team at the Auckland Law School and I hope to share their expertise,” he says.

Professor Paterson will be working in Wellington and Auckland.

“There won’t be so much time for reflection as I’ll be working in a very busy office. I’m looking forward to learning across new sectors, and applying my skills there. As an academic my passion is health law and policy. I intend to maintain my interests in this area and to continue writing as I did while I was Health and Disability Commissioner,” he says.

Working with Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem, Professor Paterson will share the workload of a very busy office, dealing with complaints of maladministration by public agencies and Official Information Act requests.

His experience as Health and Disability Commissioner (2000-2010) and as Chair of the New Zealand Banking Ombudsman Scheme (2010-13) has given him a wealth of experience in complaint handling, and his work as a Deputy Director-General of Health (1999-2000) gave him valuable insights into the workings of central government.

“The role of Ombudsman is an important part of our public institutions. It’s an independent role; as an Ombudsman you are an officer of Parliament rather than reporting to a Minister. The role recognises the importance of that independence to enable effective checks on administrative action.

“I look forward to the new challenges and to helping ensure fairness and openness in public administration. I see the broader education and public watchdog aspects of the Ombudsman’s role as vital,” he says.