Steve Maharey resigns from Pharmac

Steve Maharey resigns from Pharmac

Top public sector roles vacated as former Labour minister Steve Maharey steps down

Steve Maharey, who served as a Labour Cabinet minister and Massey University vice-chancellor, has quit his chairmanship roles at Pharmac, ACC and Education New Zealand.

Maharey’s decision follows the backlash he received for writing political columns that were perceived as biased and unsuitable for a senior public servant.

In his columns, Maharey drew comparisons between the National Party and the US Republican Party, challenged the leadership of Christopher Luxon, and commended the Labour-led government’s policies.

Maharey said he was sorry for his comments and apologised to the ministers he reported to. He also said he would cease writing his column in the future.

However, he said he chose to resign to prevent any more controversy and to safeguard the reputation of the organisations he led.

“I have had the pleasure of working with the committed and professional staff at Pharmac, ACC and Education New Zealand, and I am proud of the accomplishments we have made together,” Maharey said in a statement.

“I have always acted in the best interests of these organisations and the people they serve, and I do not want my personal views to interfere with their important work.”

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said she accepted Maharey’s resignation and thanked him for his service. She said she had faith in Maharey, but she was seeking advice from the Public Service Commission on whether his comments violated the code of conduct for Crown entity board members.

Verrall said Maharey’s situation was different from that of Rob Campbell, who was fired as the chair of Te Whatu Ora and the Environmental Protection Authority last week, after he made insulting remarks about the National Party on social media.

“Mr Campbell called the leader of the opposition stupid and implied his policies were racist. While he apologised to me, he then doubled down on those criticisms in the press. Mr Maharey has reached out and been remorseful, and he’s also indicated that he’s not going to be writing that column in the future,” Verrall said.

National leader Christopher Luxon said Maharey should have resigned sooner, and accused the government of having double standards.

“It’s the same principle that we talked about with Rob Campbell. In New Zealand, we want to have an impartial public service. It’s really important. We don’t believe in an American-style public service where we make each time after each successive government. He has a clear code of conduct, big governance job as the chair, needs to understand those obligations,” Luxon said.

Maharey’s resignation is effective from today. The government will announce interim and permanent appointments to the vacant positions in due course.