Farewell to Nick Saville-Wood


Nick Saville-Wood has been farewelled after 26 years within the Lakes health service.

A leader with “incredible drive, passion and commitment” to his staff, hospitals and community were some of the many accolades given to farewell Nick Saville-Wood.

The Chief Executive of Lakes DHB and more recently the interim District Director of Te Whatu Ora Lakes will be leaving on December 31 – after 26 years serving in district health.

An official farewell was held on Friday attended by past and present staff and iwi leaders. Former Pou Manakura Relationships and Engagement, Phyllis Tangitu was the MC.

Nick Saville-Wood and his partner Cushla Hossack


Former medical director and board member, Dr Johan Morreau paid tribute to Nick’s work in the many roles he has held.

From 1996 he started as the Decision Support Unit Manager before leading LHSIP (Lakes Health Services Improvement Project), a major facility redevelopment project.

Among the many highlights included the ICU and ED development and bringing Taupō maternity onsite with ED and outpatients expansion.

“We will never get a rebuild like this now and other equivalent hospitals still desperately need what we have. This was such important work and it was a huge role to co-ordinate that for us and our community,” Dr Morreau said.

Dr Johan Morreau thanks Nick Saville-Wood (left)

Nick became the Chief Operating Officer in July 2016 before being appointed to the Chief Executive position in December 2018.

Highlights during that time included the strong relationships with clinical staff and governance, driving he development of a Māori health and equity team and maintaining stability during the health reform transition.

“You had high expectations and always demanded a lot of everyone but it was certainly no less of what you demanded of yourself. You were about getting the job done and caring for our community,” Dr Morreau said.

“Well done, Nick, you have been an incredibly effective and loyal servant to this health service and our wider community.

“Mā mua ka kite a muri, mā muri ka ora a mua.
Those who lead give sight to those who follow, those who follow give life to those who lead.”

Dr Denise Aitkin spoke on behalf of Te Whatu Ora Lakes staff and said she had an appreciation of his office door always being opened and his willingness to listen.

“You have been supportive of clinical leadership and we have a sense you know the challenges our staff face. You have been sympathetic and solution focussed in dealing with these things,” Dr Aitken said.

“Thank you for 26 years giving to this organisation and acknowledge your honesty, integrity, willingness to listen and learn and the positivity you have brought to this organisation through your leadership.”

Chief Operating Officer, Alan Wilson said he had worked with Nick for 26 years in various roles and he had always remained the same.

“When I think of Nick, it is of his passion for doing business right and doing the right thing. He is relentless, passionate and committed to both the organisation and community,” Mr Wilson said.

“Under your guidance we were one of two DHBs that performed well financially…. it is a credit to your leadership that we are a high performing DHB across areas.

"Right through to the end, Nick has remained professional and committed and has wanted to hand over Lakes in the best possible position.

“Thank you for your leadership, professionalism, management and friendship. It feels like a body losing a limb. You have set us up well and thank you for everything you have done.”

Dr Mariska Lambert said they always appreciated Nick mentioning Taupō and they felt included and heard.

Malcolm Short spoke on behalf of Monty Morrison who was unable to attend and as chairman of Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust.

“You certainly understand Māoridom, Te Arawa and the community. It has been a pleasure working with you and Ngāti Whakaue certainly wishes you well in the future.”

Nick Saville-wood with Phyllis Tangitu (left) and his partner Cushla Hossack (right)

Nick thanked his partner Cushla Hossack for her support over the years and said he felt incredibly privileged to have worked here for 26 years.

“We have had incredibly difficult years and many great years over this time,” he said.

“In all this time I have worked with six different Board Chairs and four CEs and have seen significant changes since 1996. We have had incredible highs and lows."

Nick said some of the low points was the passing of Eru George and recently Phyllis moving onto a new challenge.

“Some high points included the chance to be part of the redevelopment of both our Rotorua and Taupō hohipera, development of services at both sites and to be honest a damned good Lakes staffing team, a damn good team.

“Our most important asset is our people and we do need to keep ensuring that we don’t forget this despite all the challenges that will be thrown at us.”

Nick said Lakes has managed COVID with all its challenges, reviews and reforms as well as business as usual.

“This has been done largely as a result of the hard mahi by the staff, communities and tremendous support from iwi,” he said.

“While I will not miss certain things about the role, what I will really miss is all our staff. We have an incredible team and culture in Lakes district that you should all be proud of.

“I will be taking a bit of a break before I consider which direction I would like my career to go in. I wish you all the best for the future.”