At the 2024 Democracy Professionals Forum (formerly the Governance Professional’s Forum) we will explore democracy, how its reach is wider than governance, the different areas of expertise needed in this role, and what a career pathway entails. The Forum is a valuable opportunity to learn from and network with leading experts in the field.

  • 23 Jul 2024-24 Jul 2024
  • 09:00 - 17:00
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  • James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, New Zealand
  • 950.00 (plus GST) Members
  • 1,100.00 (plus GST) Non Members
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About this event

The 2024 Democracy Professionals Forum will provide democracy and governance professionals with the latest information from the Ombudsman’s office and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. You will hear about the upcoming career pathway for democracy professionals, dealing with hate speech and offensive submissions, what’s new with standing orders, AI for democracy staff, and how to build strong relationships.

The Forum will offer you the opportunity to network with your peers and build professional relationships that will help to grow in your career.  

We look forward to welcoming you to this exciting event. 

Who should attend?

Democracy or governance services managers and staff, and those who work with local boards or community boards. This Forum is open to employees of local authorities and council-controlled organisations. 

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact

Day one date: 23 July

8.15 am Registrations and tea/coffee

9.00 am Opening Karakia

9.05 am Welcome from MC/Chair
Kenneth Aiolupotea, General Manager Democracy and Engagement, Auckland Council

9.10 am Ombudsman’s office,
Zoey Henley, Assistant Ombudsman

Zoey will present on the Ombudsman’s report, Open for Business, which details his investigation into council meetings and workshops, outlining council progress since the report came out last year, and his focus for the future.

10.00 am Morning tea

10.20 am Navigating elected members through a natural disaster
Kitea Tipuna, Chief Executive, Wairoa District Council

Wairoa District Council experienced extreme effects from cyclone Gabrielle. Kitea Tipuna will present an overview of the emergency with a focus on the democratic process and role.

11.10 am Wellington City Council Citizens' Assembly
Jennifer Parker, Manager of Governance and Democracy Services & Deputy Electoral Officer, Wellington City Council and Lexy Seedhouse, Engagement Manager, Wellington City Council.

Last year Wellington City Council piloted its first citizens’ assembly. Forty-two diverse Wellingtonians met over four weekends to deliberate and contribute towards the City’s Long-term Plan. The Assembly produced a report with ten recommendations which was accepted by Council late last year. In this session you will explore the role of the democracy advisor, how the citizen’s assembly came about, and now that it has finished its work, and the next steps.

11.50 Democracy and Participation Reference Group work programme
Susan Haniel, Senior Advisor, Sector Performance, Taituarā

The Taituarā Democracy and Participation Reference Group (DPRG) provides expert advice for Taituarā and the sector. Hear about their projects and what is coming down the pipeline.

12.00 Lunch

12.50 pm Breakouts – Rotation 1
Choose 1 of 3:

1. Conflicts of Interest.
Jonathan Keate, Senior Solicitor/Sector Manager, Office of the Auditor General

    The Office of the Auditor General safeguards public trust by promoting transparency and effective governance. Hear their valuable guidance on managing conflicts of interest with elected members.

    2. Minute taking – the law, the politics and the expectations.
    Judith Cheyne, Senior Associate, Simpson Grierson

      Local government has a legislative responsibility to take minutes of its proceedings. What does the law expect, what do elected members expect, and what does the Ombudsman expect? Judith will discuss the legalities and expectations of minute taking.

      3. Career pathway for democracy professionals,
      Sheryl Bryant, Manager, Workforce Leadership, Taituarā

        Democracy professionals are local government experts on elected members' governance processes, but what is the difference between democracy and governance? What does a career pathway entail? Find out about a proposed career pathway from Susan Haniel, Senior Advisor Sector Readiness at Taituarā.

        1.40 pm Breakouts – Rotation 2

        2.30 pm A word from our sponsor

        2.45 pm Afternoon Tea

        3.05 pm Artificial Intelligence AI Forum Panel

        Moderator: Matt Lythe, Managing Director, Lynker Analytics - Introduction to the AI Forum and where to go for Governance help

        Dr Amanda Williamson, Generative AI Lead, Deloitte NZ
        - How can AI improve my life?
        David Knox, Principal, Data Science, Lynker Analytics
        - Impact of AI driven insights
        Asa Cox, CEO, Arcanum
        - How do I get started?

          How can AI be used to improve the role of the democracy professional? Hear from the AI Forum experts on the latest AI developments and how it can improve capability and productivity.

          4.00 pm The transformative power of strong relationships
          Pip Carter (formerly Pip Loader)

          Pip’s mantra is ‘Everything we do, start, and ends, with People’ and good working relationships are essential for teams, organizations and individuals to succeed.

          With the pressures of Annual Plans, LTP’s, collating timely information and managing the myriad of elected member personalities, (and everything else ‘democracy!) building strong and effective relationships is critical.

          Join Pip for an action-packed session that delves into the transformative power of strong relationships and discover practical strategies, tools (and some ‘connection’ hacks) around building and strengthening connections, even with people that you might not get on with!

          4.50 pm Sum-up
          Kenneth Aiolupotea, General Manager Democracy and Engagement, Auckland Council

          5.00 pm Networking drinks

          Day two date: 24 July

          9 am Welcome to day two

          9.05 am Privacy Matters
          Susan Allen, Manager Compliance and Enforcement, Office of the Privacy Commissioner

          The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been busy keeping pace with technology developments in recent years. This session will update us on what the Privacy Commissioner is focussing on at present, what democracy staff should be proactive about, and areas to pay attention to.

          9.50 am Public submissions and hate speech
          Judith Cheyne, Senior Associate, Simpson Grierson.
          Inspector Gaylene Rogers, Programme Lead Te Raranga, Police

          Councils are experiencing more incidents of offensive language and hate speech. At this session Judith Cheyne will discuss the legalities of managing offensive speech in written submissions and in meetings. An interactive Q&A session will follow with Judith and Inspector Gaylene Rogers from the Police’s Te Raranga (hate speech) programme. So, bring your questions and be ready for a great session.

          10.40 am Morning tea

          11.00 am Community belonging and participation in local government
          Dr Bronwyn Wood, Associate Professor, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

          New Zealand is changing and so are citizens’ sense of belonging and how they interact with governance structures in councils. Dr Wood’s research focusses on ways to foster active participation, and informed engagement with councils. Hear case studies from research with superdiverse New Zealand young people's experiences of citizenship participation and how diverse citizens are being brought together through civics education programmes.

          11.45 am A word from our sponsor

          12.00 Lunch

          12.50 pm Standing orders
          Mike Reid, Principal Policy Advisor, LGNZ.
          Julie Straka, Governance Lead, New Plymouth District Council

          This year the model Standing Orders are being reviewed. The proposed changes will be unveiled. You will hear from Mike Reid and Julie Straka about the exciting new additions and changes to the standing orders.

          1.40 pm Breakouts – Rotation 1
          Choose 1 of 3:

          1. Youth Councils
          Sheryl Bryant, Manager, Workforce Leadership, Taituarā
          Eliza Cummings, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Youth Development.
          Greer Forde-Macnaughton – Senior Youth Engagement Specialist Wellington City Council

            What is the purpose of a Youth Council? Is there a role for Youth Councils to be involved in democratic processes or are they just another cohort to consult with? Find out from Eliza some perspectives and insights on what role Youth Councils can play, what it takes to run them well, and information on the support the Ministry of Youth Development provides.

            2. How to write recommendations
            Steffi Haefeli, Manager Democracy Services, Kapiti Coast District Council
            Julie Straka, Governance Lead, New Plymouth District Council

            What should council recommendations contain and how should they be structured? This session will explore the elements of well-crafted recommendations and how to achieve them.

            3. How to run effective pre-agenda meetings
            Steve McDowell, Director, Meeting & Governance Solutions

              Steve will discuss the purpose of pre-agenda meetings, how to manage them effectively, what is appropriate behaviour, and when the “ownership” of the agenda passes from the Chief Executive to the Chair.

              2.20 pm Breakouts – Rotation 2

              3.00 pm Sum-up and closing karakia
              Kenneth Aiolupotea, General Manager Democracy and Engagement, Auckland Council

              3.15 pm Finish


              Ali’imalemanu Kenneth Aiolupotea
              General Manager Democracy and Engagement Read Profile