Bidding farewell to Bidrose

On the day she was named as Dunedin City Council chief executive in December 2013, Sue Bidrose told the Otago Daily Times she had three principal aims for her tenure in the role.

She wanted, she said, to help make Dunedin a more attractive place to live for skilled and talented young people. She hoped she could play a role in fostering the city’s economic growth. And she planned to "continue the council’s more open, transparent relationship with its community".

There will be differing opinions on how successfully Dr Bidrose, who announced this week she is leaving the role to head up AgResearch, achieved that trio of aims. The burden any senior council figure must bear is that it is impossible to please everyone.

What is reasonably clear is that, broadly speaking, she has made an immense contribution to this city.

She led from the front, was clearly passionate about Dunedin and moving the city forward, and worked tirelessly to modernise her organisation, and she will leave with our respect and best wishes.

She broke through a major glass ceiling when she had her first day in the chair on her 52nd birthday, replacing Paul Orders and becoming the first female chief executive of the council, and — while there is not necessarily anything wrong with affirmative action to redress years of gender imbalance — she got the job on merit, because she was clearly up to the task of running an organisation responsible for billions of dollars of ratepayers’ assets and more than 1000 staff.

She faced immense challenges along the way, testing the thickness of her skin and the sharpness of her mind and the full range of her management competence.

The Citifleet scandal, in particular, happening as it did so soon into her tenure, must have placed an immense strain on her shoulders. Later, the South Dunedin flooding aftermath, issues around cycleways and city streets, various hotel and waterfront development issues, and the Covid-19 pandemic all tested her ability to keep the ship on course.

Dr Bidrose was forced to keep her hand on the tiller during a period of necessary council austerity that followed the massive investment in Forsyth Barr Stadium. Then, once the financial shackles were loosened, she oversaw a spell of relatively vigorous spending and investment to drive economic growth.

Through her time at the council, she always seemed accessible and approachable, at least in relative terms, and she got among, and was embraced by, the community. Her willingness to talk about her background — she was adopted as a baby, and caught up with long-lost family while chief executive — and her motorbike riding and her bid last year to turn down a market-driven pay rise helped humanise her.

This newspaper, in a feature a year on from her appointment, referred to Dr Bidrose as "not your typical city bureaucrat" yet someone who had an "old-fashioned sense of public service ethics".

It was that ethical core that drove her to focus heavily on necessary cultural change within the council, and it was interesting to note she referred to her role in creating a "really modern, best-practice, A-grade public sector organisation" in her farewell statement, and listed her proudest achievement as the DCC being recognised by the Office of the Auditor-general for being an "exemplar" in the field of public service.

There were times when you sensed Dr Bidrose had to bite her tongue while dealing with some of the city councillors, and in recent times — witness her comments about "online vitriol" — there has been a sense of frustration at what she saw as positive council steps being greeted with criticism.

If the simplest gauge of a council chief executive’s impact is whether they are leaving their city in a better state than when they started, the Bidrose era can be judged a success. Hers are big shoes to fill.

Comments

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Ok...why continue to highlight a divisive, mediocre bureaucrat? Nobody gives a toss about what she did or where she's going. I'd rather see blank space than have this mindless propaganda shoved down my throat. Bye, bye sue! Now just go already!

You've been told. Ms Bidrose does not read comment threads and yours is a model of why not.

As you are trying to recover financially from the lockdown, I ask you to consider something. Bidrose makes $9,615 a week. What government employee is worth $9,615 a week? I can’t think of a single government employee worth that kind of money especially a glorified city planner running a Podunk little city like Dunedin. Where is the value? That money could have made a huge difference if spent on other things. That said, I am actually surprised Bidrose would leave her position in Dunedin. There aren’t very many $500,000 a year jobs that allow you to work part time around your full-time exercise schedule. Equally, there aren’t very many $500,000 a year jobs that allow you to only take credit for the good things that happen under your watch. Typically, earning that kind of money means full accountability for the good and the bad. Who wouldn’t want to have a job where you get to say; “The $1.5 million Citifleet fraud…not my fault. Or, forget the fact I didn’t do any upgrades to the infrastructure in South Dunedin to prevent the flooding, just give me credit for the cleanup.” Yep, Bidrose has some big shoes to fill, the question is do we really want to fill them?

'Podunk little'?

Stay in the Big Smoke, you don't belong in Dunedin.

Hiya "Hull", can you check your list of people who belong in Dunedin and see if I made the list. Curious if you deemed me naughty or nice? Do you plan on publishing the list? I think the word for banning people based upon their beliefs is discrimination? You know the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people based upon their beliefs. Funny how free speech is ok for thee but not for me. Amazing how the ever so tolerant left has mastered the double standard!

Too funny! At least we know who the keeper of the list is.

Gosh there are some bitter people who comment here. I give the council (and the Uni and the SDHB and anyone else who grinds my gears) heaps of criticism down here when I think it's warranted but Sue is moving on now and I say good luck to her. I know we haven't always seen eye to eye but that's (political) life eh, let's move on and not get negative and personal.

Good Golly Gosh, imagine people being bitter about a government employee earning $9,615 a week. A part-time one at that! Might want to have your "Gears" checked if that doesn't grind them! That's political? Ah, no! Bidrose isn't an elected official. She is an appointed employee of the DCC. The problem being she bypassed the normal hiring process through a temporary appointment. As you say; "Sue is moving on now and I say good luck". That's your opinion! Like many other people, I say good riddance! If that makes me a hater, well; I can live with that! See ya Sue!

You can live with Hate?
Like, out of town?

Prejudice is the child of ignorance.

My gears are well oiled with perspective thanks for asking.

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