New Mayor appoints Lisa Thomson to be Chair of Sustainability and Wellbeing Committee



The new Waikato District Council met earlier this week with Mayor Jacqui Church making the chairperson and deputy appointments for the four main council committees ahead of their first committee meeting set to take place in December.

A new committee, Sustainability & Wellbeing, has been added as the fourth committee and will be chaired by Raglan’s own Cr Lisa Thomson. The Sustainability and Wellbeing committee reflects the council's roles and responsibilities around climate change and its impact on the people in our district.


“So this new committee is really anything to do with people, so things like the blueprints, emergency management and climate change. It’s so important for our future to give it more mana and focus,” said the Mayor.

(Listen to the interview below:)


The Mayor has proposed a new governance structure after meeting with councillors one-on-one to hear their visions for the community and understand their needs and wants in this triennium and what they lobbied on to get elected.

“Even though we have nine new councillors, the depth of experience and what they’re bringing to the table is amazing and we’re really lucky. There is a deep knowledge around governance,” said the Mayor.

Jacqui highlights that the operational and governance arms of the council can look very different and that the new council had plenty of experience with governance whether they were returning or newly elected to the council.

Cr Eugene Patterson from Ngāruawāhia has been appointed chair of the Infrastructure Committee with Cr David Whyte as the deputy. As the previous chair of this committee, Jacqui says he has the experience and knowledge to continue in that role.

The Policy and Regulatory Committee will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Carolyn Eyre with Cr Crystal Beavis as her deputy.

The Strategy and Finance committee have had their name changed to the Performance and Strategy Committee to focus on the wider performance of the council and not just the financials. This committee will be chaired by Cr Janet Gibb and Cr Marlene Raumati as deputy.

In relation to a ‘mood for change’ the Mayor says that the new council were always going to have some change by nature of the different people that were elected.

“We’ve got nine women but it wasn’t until someone counted it up and told me that I realised - I think it was someone in the media. If it had been a male mayor and male deputy it probably wouldn’t have been reported. In my mind it’s about who’s the best person for the job at the right time and we are fortunate as we have got the capability but I recognise that women have been struggling to be seen as equals for a long time.”

“In terms of change, if we do the same things in government and local government; if we keep doing the same thing and getting the same results and we’re surprised about it, that’s kind of the definition of a mental disorder. Sometimes we have to try new things to improve innovation over time.”

Looking back on the campaign trail, Jacqui says concerns around three waters, the pandemic and co-governance all come up in conversation. For Raglan specifically, we have a pressing housing issue and she references the Te Ao Māori view that, at the end of the day, most people want the same things in life which are mainly around being valued and respected, having a secure and warm home, belonging to a community and having a meaningful job.

Things like housing availability can affect the wellbeing of people for example and it’s something the council needs to be aware of in terms of the wellbeing of the people they represent.

“I see residents and ratepayers as customers but also shareholders, shareholders have a participatory value as well. We need to hear those voices and we need to be working together as partners. Shareholders means you have some skin in the game as well because it's not just one person or organisation, it’s about doing it together and rowing that waka.”

In relation to housing specifically, Jacqui says that the Waikato Regional Housing Initiative is the main organisation that focuses on this issue in the region. However, housing also involves a number of government ministries so it’s about understanding what the council can and can’t do in that space and lobbying for good support from the government.

When asked if council was going to keep divesting itself of land (that might be used to help with the housing crisis) as has happened in Raglan in the last decade Jacqui commented, “We have to look at what we’ve got that we need to hold on to, what we’ve got that we don’t need - ever, and what we’re not sure about and need guidance around. That strategic piece of work is really important. The piece-meal selling off of land is not good.”

With a new council in place, the Mayor said that it was a good time to review the strategy around council owned land to incorporate new visions.

Community members in Raglan including former Raglan Community Board chair, the late Bob MaCleod, have been advocating for a Raglan Structure Plan that could provide town planning for the future growth of Raglan. In response to the suggestion of a structure plan to control new housing developments, Jacqui warns that a structure plan is not the be all and end all when it comes to steering growth in the district.

Even if a structure plan is in place, if the land is owned privately, it doesn’t mean that the development will happen exactly as laid out in the plan because the council can’t control every aspect of what a landowner or developer wishes to do with their own property, or when they wish to do so - so she was reluctant to make any promises. She said a structure plan is one of the tools that help plan our town but that strategies such as Waikato 2070 also inform growth and what and where, as do local plans.

Bringing it back to the issue of empowering local community boards and delegating the board with more power, she says that this would really depend on the community board’s aspirations and their capabilities so would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Empowerment of all community boards is definitely one of the workstreams we want to look at. We’re looking at an analysis of capability. For example, if we're going to have capability and capacity on our boards what does that look like? It could be a raft of things like training around better governance or having a budget and making the decisions for the town.

“It’s an important conversation to have with all our community boards and to hear from each member too,

“It’s definitely on the radar.”