Unconventional lines man appointed new quake boss

Thursday 12 May 2011 4:44 p.m.

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By Jeff Hampton

Canterbury has a new earthquake boss, an unconventional power company executive who rides a bike to work and has contacts in show business.

Roger Sutton will head the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), and took a pay cut to do it.

An hour after resigning from lines company Orion, Mr Sutton was in the hot seat – announced by Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee as the new boss of CERA.

Mr Sutton is a highly regarded and unconventional boss, saying the job pays $500,000 a year – but that's less his Orion paycheck.

"I want this job, I want a challenge, I want to be part of this," he says. "There wasn't a negotiation – I was offered the role and I've accepted the role with the package, and I'm very excited to have the job."

The bicycle-riding power chief won fans for his energy after the quake. He cut through bureaucracy and restored power to the eastern suburbs by installing overhead cables to replace damaged underground wiring.

"I'm from Canterbury and we have a reputation for being a little one-eyed, but in the end we wanted the best person for the job," says Mr Brownlee.

His sister-in-law is actor Robyn Malcolm of Outrageous Fortune. Ms Malcolm's mother Anne was badly injured in the collapse of the CTV building, and Mr Sutton made many visits to Christchurch hospital to see her.

In spite of running a lines company with $1 billion worth of assets, Mr Sutton is conservation-minded and his monthly family power bill is just $75.

He knows all about Christchurch's cold winters.

"This is my city, I live here, my children go to school here," he says. "I'm going to be really tenacious in making a big difference to this town."

Mr Sutton starts his job next month. 

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