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Kōrero with Lucy Elwood

We recently sat down for a kōrero with Lucy Elwood, a Te Toi Mahana Board Member, to discuss how she got involved in community housing and her views on some of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

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Kia ora Lucy, thank you for your time. Tell us a little bit about your whakapapa and where you grew up?


I hail from early English settler stock, agricultural workers who started coming out here in 1830s. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all born here. My great-grandfather served in Gallipoli.


I was born in Auckland but moved to Wellington just over 20 years ago. I have one stepson and three kids. I studied biology and law, and afterwards ended up in a big law firm. When I had young children, I started working for myself and I went on a few different boards - including my local school board and Rare Disorders New Zealand, both of which I ended up chairing.


While I was on these boards, I really saw how secure housing made such a difference to education and health outcomes. A lot of the support that we were asked to provide came about because of housing challenges, or housing just being inadequate for the needs of the people that were living in it. My last big role was Chief Executive of the Cancer Society, where we also supported people with accommodation during treatment. And separate from that I quite like infrastructure and am involved in a handful of utility companies as well.


How did you come to join the board of Te Toi Mahana?

After the Council worked through its process and established Te Toi Mahana, they ran a process to appoint three independent trustees. I had a phone call from the recruitment agent to say is something you might be interested in - and I was like, yeah, actually, that fits. I think that's one of the really nice things about the board is there was an opportunity to create and craft a board from the start. It’s quite a complicated regulatory environment that we operate in and that's probably where my skill set comes in to make sure we have a people first approach to what we provide but also comply with all these regulations that we have to operate in.

What do you see as some of the key challenges for Te Toi Mahana?


One of the challenges is really making sure we form and keep our own identity. And there’s that wonderful thing of letting your children grow up and leave home. I think the Council really has allowed Te Toi Mahana to leave with its blessings, but it's been nurtured by that parent of Council for a long time and so we really want to honour that, but also grow and continue from that. The stuff we won't compromise on is around that Council relationship - on the one hand, how do you really respect it? But also ensure that Te Toi Mahana can stand on its own two feet. And that is really important for our tenants as well because the Council's been their landlord for a really long time and there'll be a bit of confusion around that change. You don't want it to be too jarring.


What are some of the opportunities for Te Toi Mahana?

It's exciting for me to think around what additional property we can build and grow our housing portfolio. And then the opportunity of becoming a Community Housing Provide and getting access to the IRRS subsidy. That's going to make a massive difference for some people moving into our properties in terms of their rent. So that's really exciting.


Anything else you’d like to share?

Having lived in Wellington for about over 20 years, I'm really excited to actually do something that makes a contribution to Wellington. A lot of the things I've been focused on, for example at the Cancer Society and Rare Disorders New Zealand, were sort of more national in focus. And so, for Te Toi Mahana there is a real sense of contributing to your home city, where my children have grown up.  

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