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Mr Cull, who stood down after three terms as Dunedin’s mayor earlier this year, was yesterday named by Health Minister David Clark to head the new SDHB, after winning a seat at the table in October’s local body elections.
Mr Cull said yesterday he had "made no secret" of his desire for the role, and would now turn his attention to helping the board in "confronting the numerous challenges the DHB faces".
"Some of them are really positive challenges — preparing the southern health system for the new hospital is one of the bigger ones."
But so, too, was the board’s ballooning deficit, which now stood at more than $85million.
Mr Cull said he wanted to see the figure reduce, but the focus should be on the value of the services delivered, rather than just slashing costs.
"It’s about lifting the value so that whatever the cost is is well spent.
"Obviously, the deficit has got to be reduced ... but it was simply not just a matter of slashing spending.
"That’s the challenge."
It would also be "very appropriate" for the newly elected board to lobby for changes to DHBs’ funding model, once members had got to grips with their new roles, he said.
"I’m not prejudging whether we will, but it’s certainly not an inappropriate conversation to have, between the board and the minister."
Alongside Mr Cull would be deputy chairman David Perez, while Jean O’Callaghan, Tuari Potiki and Moana Theodore have also been appointed to the board.
Mr Perez and Jean O’Callaghan were both deputies in the team of commissioners, headed by Kathy Grant, who assumed governance responsibilities for the SDHB in 2015, when the board’s deficit was forecast to reach $27million.
On Monday, Mrs Grant will officially hand over the commissioners’ duties to the new board.
Dr Clark said the DHBs played a "vital role" in the delivery of healthcare, and it was "critical that they were well led, and well governed".
Mr Cull was "an experienced leader, and I am delighted he has agreed to take on the chair’s duties".
Dr Clark acknowledged the role played by Mrs Grant and her team since 2015, but also that the board faced challenges ahead.
Because of that, two crown monitors — former Medical Council chairman Andrew Connolly and former Auckland DHB chief financial officer Roger Jarrold — had been appointed to the SDHB as well.
They would be joined by the board’s elected members — John Chambers, Ilka Beekhuis, Lyndell Kelly, Lesley Soper, Terry King and Kaye Crowther.
Dr Clark said health board governance was "not an easy job" and required "leadership, focus, a strong skillset and a commitment to delivering high quality care".
Thirteen new DHB chairmen were named yesterday, including four Maori, which was a "significant changing of the guard".
A further 76 appointments were also announced, to complement elected board members, he said.