Te Arawa Lakes Trust gets set for the future

After an extensive six month review of its activities, financial processes and operating structures, Te Arawa Lakes Trust (TALT) has appointed interim manager, Karen Vercoe, as its permanent Chief Executive.

Ms Vercoe (Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Makino) has extensive governance, organisational development and management experience across industry sectors, including working with iwi, Māori and Pacific service providers, Whanau Ora collectives and other not-for-profit organisations.

In 2016 she received the Dame Mira Szásy Māori Alumni Award at the Māori Business Leader Awards, while she also received the University of Auckland Kelly Research Scholarship in 2006.

She is currently the Chairperson of Te Pūmautanga O Te Arawa and is a former New Zealand double international representative in Rugby and Touch.

Ms Vercoe has been acting as TALT’s interim general manager since the departure of its previous Chief Executive in December 2016.

TALT chairman, Sir Toby Curtis, says the Trust has spent six months undertaking an extensive review of its previous 12 months of operations.

He says while the review highlighted some areas for improvement, it also accentuated some significant areas of opportunity in terms of its future structure and operations.

“Our review was wide and all-encompassing, and as a result of this process, it has become crystal clear that we need to focus on our core purpose and stick to what we do well – managing our assets responsibily and sustainably.”

Sir Toby Curtis says this responsibility incorporates the Trust’s physical and financial assets, as well as its environmental assets, such as the protection and enhancement of the Te Arawa lakes.

“We cannot afford to become distracted by non-essential interests that are outside our core mandate. Now is the time to refine our focus on our core business, and to implement the most effective and efficient operating framework for the current and future needs of our people.”

As a result, the Trust has made some further changes, including outsourcing its administrative and financial functions, bringing in specialist experts to advise and assist with its environmental and project work, and looking for alternative providers to take on its employment and training students.

Sir Toby Curtis says the training unit has been an important social endeavour for the Trust, but is an example of an interest that is outside its core purpose.

“The unit’s operation has become more challenging in recent years due to a number of changes in the funding environment, which has placed considerable strain on the Trust. TALT is not in the position to continue to sustain this unit, and we know that its services can be more effectively delivered by other organisations who are better equipped to satisfy the funder’s requirements and those of the students.”

TALT’s environmental manager, Roku Mihinui, is also leaving the Trust to embark on a complementary career as a consultant in the environmental, social and cultural arenas.

Sir Toby Curtis says Mr Mihinui has made a significant contribution to the Trust, the Te Arawa people and the lakes environment over the past 15 years.

“This is an exciting new phase of Roku’s professional career and we hope he may choose to work with us on specific projects within our environmental portfolio in the future.  We wish Roku all the best in his new endeavours.”

Sir Toby Curtis says the review process was a necessary, but rewarding process, ensuring the Trust can deliver the best possible outcomes for its constituents.

The Trust currently has a total of 20,107 registered tribal members, 17,013 of whom are 18 years and over. Members are located in Rotorua and across New Zealand, as well as many countries around the world.