Two minutes with: Diana Crossan

by The Listener / 24 January, 2013
After a decade as Retirement Commissioner, Diana Crossan is moving on. But she’s definitely not retiring – just yet.
Diana Crossan
Diana Crossan, photo Mark Mitchell/NZH

What did you learn from your time at the Probation Service?
A mountain of stuff. It was an amazing wake-up call for a 22-year-old middle-class teacher’s daughter from South Canterbury. I also did a lot of social work and counselling training, including group work, community work, development work – lots and lots of stuff. I also learnt about the glass ceiling – I hit it with a loud thud. I got out because of it.

What do you regard as one of your greatest achievements?
Embedding a financial strategy for financial literacy in New Zealand.

And your biggest regret?
It’s probably that I didn’t pursue an operational manager’s role at a time when I was leaving the State Services Commission. As things have happened, it didn’t matter, but I didn’t know that it didn’t matter then.

What are you doing next?
I have no idea. I’ve been approached about going on several boards and I’ll probably pursue one of those. My biggest dilemma is whether to take a job, or take pieces of work. I do like to belong – I’m not very good at being a consultant. In the meantime, my sister and brother-in-law are coming from France, then I’ll go up to our beach house at Waihi Beach and do a bit of boogie-boarding on the boogie board I was given for my farewell present.

Are you a feminist?
Yes, absolutely. Why do people fear the word? There is still much to fight for. I spoke at a Victoria University/Treasury seminar on the long-term fiscal forecasting and there were 17 speakers and there were just two women.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father told me when I was 17 when I went on an AFS [American Field Service] scholarship to North Carolina to count to 10, which meant don’t open your mouth before you’ve thought about it. It was a good bit of advice. He wasn’t into giving advice much, but that was his parting shot as I got on the plane. I came from a small country town, where there were six in my class, so it was an amazing trip. It was the year Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed, so it was an amazing year in America.

What’s one of the hardest decisions you’ve ever had to make?
The hardest decision for me has been, do I take the next job I’m offered? I’ve had some weird jobs. Should I go to Contact Energy, should I go to AMP, should I become the Retirement Commissioner? They were quite hard decisions.

Apart from your husband, who would you like to be marooned on a desert island with?
Somebody very practical. I wouldn’t want to be marooned for long.

Favourite stretch of road?
I have in New Zealand spots of the road that remind me of parts of the world I’ve been to. So I’m driving out of Christchurch and there is a piece of road where there is forest as far as the eye can see – there is another spot like that near Tokoroa, just out of Mangakino – and I feel like I’m in Canada. And then I’m on the motorway in Wellington and for literally one second I can’t see anything other than high-rise buildings and I feel like I’m in LA.
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