Rob Campbell sees his role now as advocating for diversity

April 18, 2023

Rob Campbell sees his role now as advocating for diversity

AUT chancellor Rob Campbell says there are government people who would like to see him go. Photo: Nina Tapu

Rob Campbell is keeping mum on just who would like to see him fired from his role as Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology.

He told TWN there were probably some in the Government who would like to see him gone but he was reluctant to identify his political detractors.

“I can probably think of some politicians, without naming them, who’d think it’s a good idea.”

But, given the autonomy of a university, he thinks it’s highly unlikely.

Last month the 72-year-old was fired from two public-servant roles – as head of Te Whatu Ora and then as chair of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The sackings came after Campbell posted criticisms on LinkedIn of National’s leader Christopher Luxon and the party’s alternative to the Government’s now-scrapped Three Waters reforms.

The Government expects public servants to remain politically neutral on public platform, but Campbell said he was sacked because he stood up for co-governance.

Being politically neutral or ambivalent is not how Rob Campbell seems to have been designed.

He’s a self-described “outsider” who has “never felt comfortable” in his multiple director roles.

“More recently I’ve tried to use these roles to become an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

“All those things that became unpopular among directors but it became my role [to advocate for them].”

His reputation for being the odd one out among corporate titans and an outspoken critic of the Government has cost him jobs but, despite the fallout, Campbell doesn't think the Beehive can run him out of his AUT role.

“It would be pretty unusual I think if they thought they could impose that on a university.

“The folk who kicked me out of [Te] Whatu Ora would probably like to kick me out of other roles too.”

Rob Campbell, after a “short courtship”, was offered the role of AUT Chancellor in 2021 by the AUT Council and he accepted.

The role of chancellor includes chairing university council members in strategic decision-making and overseeing the university’s operations.

But Campbell stresses he doesn’t think it’s for him “to set the goals or the direction of the university”.

“I think it would be very arrogant [for a Chancellor] to come in and say I’m going to make AUT this.”
Indeed, one of the big jobs for people on a university council or a board of directors was not getting in the way, he says.

He considers himself a “helper and facilitator” and his mahi at AUT is to “make sure people of the organisation are achieving what they want to achieve”.

His vision for AUT is for it “to serve”.

Campbell has kept his AUT role during a turbulent few years that have seen the university turn to mass redundancies as an answer.

He continues to hold other roles as chair for Ara Ake, a renewable energy initiative, and NZ Rural Land Co.

Tāmaki Makaurau - city of volcanoes

Tāmaki Makaurau - city of volcanoes

James Ball December 11, 2023

Planting the seeds of hope in Tāmaki Makaurau

Planting the seeds of hope in Tāmaki Makaurau

Maddy Powers December 11, 2023

Crime on the rise? Aucklanders feeling less safe

Crime on the rise? Aucklanders feeling less safe

Ben McQueen; Rosa Katavich; Luke McHale; Briar Jackson October 15, 2023