Grant Robertson new Otago University vice-chancellor


Former Finance Minister Grant Robertson today confirmed what he called "the worst-kept secret in the South Island" — that he is to become the new vice-chancellor of the University of Otago.

"It is a dream job for me in many ways," he told the Otago Daily Times.

"I had a great experience at a student at the University of Otago, it set me up for my life, and the opportunity to come back and create those kind of opportunities for future students is just huge."

Mr Robertson, who earned a BA in political studies while at Otago, was also the president of the Otago University Students Association and co-president of the New Zealand University Students' Association.

He laughed when asked if this was a case of poacher turned game keeper.

Grant Robertson (right), then NZUSA co-president, and Rachel Brooking, OUSA administration vice...
Grant Robertson (right), then NZUSA co-president, and Rachel Brooking, OUSA administration vice president, join Chris Tozer, OUSA President, in negotiations with Judith Medlicott, Keith Houghton and Graeme Fogelberg during the occupation of the University of Otago registry in this August 1996 file photo. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
"I don’t know about that, it has been 31 years since I was the student president so an awful lot has happened in that time, but I have always felt a really deep connection to the university, and indeed to the city and the province. I have never not been an Otago boy, and it feels good to be coming home."

University chancellor Stephen Higgs said Mr Robertson has been appointed with a total renumeration package of $629,000.

As an MP he is paid $163,961. 

Mr Robertson had the opportunity to move into the University Lodge in Saint Leonards.

Should he decide to live there it would be appropriately charged to his total renumeration package at an independently assessed value.

Mr Higgs confirmed Mr Robertson was the first non-academic to be appointed vice chancellor, but stressed track record and connections to Otago University made him a good candidate.

"Council ran a very robust process, including engagement through the Staff Advisory Group to test the concept of appointing a non-academic candidate to the role."

It was pleased the staff group supported the appointment of Mr Robertson.

Consistent with normal practice his appointment is for a five-year term.

Mr Robertson, who was raised in South Dunedin, joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) after leaving university.

After being posted overseas, he returned to work in the office of then Labour MP Marian Hobbs, before moving into Prime Minister Helen Clark’s office.

Mr Robertson won the Wellington Central electorate for Labour in 2008, and held it until last year’s election when he moved solely on to Labour’s list.

He was Finance Minister for six years under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and held a number of other roles, including Leader of the House, Deputy Prime Minister, and one which was a particular passion, Minister of Sport and Recreation.

"I have given a huge part of my life to politics and so it is a wrench leaving here, but I am super excited for the role."

Mr Robertson takes up his new role on July 1. He said he would remain in Parliament for some weeks, on the backbenches, helping his successor as finance spokesperson into their new role and preparing for a valedictory speech.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins will announce a reshuffled line-up following Mr Robertson’s announcement.

University of Otago

University chancellor Stephen Higgs said the institution was delighted to welcome a candidate of Mr Robertson’s calibre to a key leadership role.

“Grant’s extensive senior leadership experience at the highest levels of government, understanding of the machinery of government, deep capability and experience in financial management, strategic thinking and ability to navigate complex issues during challenging times made him a standout candidate,”  Mr Higgs said in a statement.

“We believe his proven track record in building effective partnerships, as evidenced by the constructive relationships he has developed across the house during his time in Parliament and more broadly on an international level, will also serve the university well.”