GROWING a vibrant Kawerau has been Helen Stewart’s passion for the past 16 years.
But her time improving the economic and social wellbeing of Kawerau has come to an end with the resignation from her executive director role at Kawerau Enterprise Agency (KEA).
To be closer to family, Miss Stewart is moving to Tauranga where she will take on the general manager role at Volunteering Bay of Plenty.
Miss Stewart’s journey with Kawerau began in 2002, when she returned to New Zealand from England.
While in Auckland, she came across the Kawerau Enterprise Agency executive director job vacancy.
“Though I knew little about Kawerau I had a positive picture of the town.
“Having moved from Europe, I was attracted to the amount of te reo Maori spoken here too.”
At her job interview with KEA, she gave the impression she would like to stay for three to five years.
Due to the organisation constantly developing and her love and passion for the Kawerau community growing, she found herself still in the director’s chair many years later.
KEA chairman Colin Reid said under Miss Stewart’s leadership, the organisation developed many successful business retention and social development programmes in Kawerau.
She was instrumental in developing Engineering Cluster, Trade Training, Business Incubators and Mentoring programmes and Kawerau and Districts Ageing in Place (KADAP) Incorporated.
She was also heavily involved with Kawerau Proud and welcoming new residents to the district.
“Her passion for people has facilitated the rejuvenation of Kawerau and the fruits of her labour will continue to reap benefits for years to come,” Mr Reid said.
Miss Stewart said her staff had a bit of time to come to terms with her planned departure.
“They were resigned and very emotional about it.”
Since the announcement of her resignation, Miss Stewart has also had lovely acknowledgements from the community.
“It’s been a wrench. It’s quite emotional and I’m trying not to wear my heart on my sleeve.
“Having to try untangle oneself from the commitments, I am genuinely sad.”
Miss Stewart’s departure from Kawerau is for family reasons.
The move will be the first time in 40 years she will be with family.
“It wasn’t on the horizon to retire or move, but after more than 16 years, it was time for a change.”
Miss Stewart said exciting things were happening at KEA.
“My staff are very skilled and have developed in their roles. I am leaving it in good hands.”
Mr Reid will take the reins for the meantime, but Miss Stewart said the next director needed to have a mix of skills – good negotiating skills, understanding property development and community networks and needed to live in Kawerau.
“I will miss some of the projects and people, particularly the people who have given their time for no financial reward, and there are many of those.”
KEA, set up in 1985, is an independent not for profit organisation.
Income comes from the management of commercial properties and assets and any profit is used to improve the economic and social wellbeing of Kawerau.