In this profile we feature Melissa Hollier who is a Corporate Planner at Rotorua Lakes Council. Melissa tells us a little about her work, and how a desire to help others with challenging issues including the housing crisis, climate change and economic recovery inspired her to work in local government. She also talks about her recent involvement with Taituarā, shares her top picks for fantastic food in Rotorua and why she loves being part of her rural community.

Tell us about your role at Rotorua Lakes Council

I am the Corporate Planner at Rotorua Lakes Council and part of the Corporate Planning and Governance team. We are a small team, which means that my role is quite diverse. My role is to provide high quality analysis and support, information and advice in all areas of Rotorua Lakes Council. The role is responsible for leading and contributing to the delivery of the Rotorua Lakes Council’s corporate planning and reporting work programme. This includes my main projects developing the Annual Plan, Annual Report and currently the Long-term Plan and everything that goes alongside that – consultation document, audit process, activity plans etc. 

A second key component of my role is to co-ordinate corporate processes and information across Council, including legislative responsibilities, managing special projects and promoting integrated planning and effective operation of Council. From time to time, I also support Rotorua Lakes Council’s Governance function.

Can you tell us about some of your current projects, which you are particularly excited about?

Our consultation document has just gone out for public engagement and I am excited about generating as much community feedback as possible so that we can build it into our final 2021-2031 Long-term Plan and get it adopted by Council on the 28 June. In conjunction with this, I was also part of the Taituarā New Zealand leg of the JLT Management Challenge this year. As part of the RLC team of six, I very much enjoyed heading down to Wellington to participate in this and completing the pre-challenge task with colleagues throughout the organisation that I have not had a chance to work with before this opportunity.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

While processes that govern my role are necessary, meaningful and robust - they do present challenges. Set deadlines and legislative requirements create time pressure with not much flexibility for change and delay. There is always uncertainty and fear that enough has been done and many projects are down to the wire as to whether or not they will be successfully adopted by Council.

Why did you decide to work in local government?

I started my career in the private sector but over time felt something was missing in the work I was doing. As someone who is guided by my inner vision, personal values, and a quiet, principled version of humanism, I wanted a role that enabled me to use my skills to uplift others and to fix society’s deeper problems. It is in local government that I found a platform to be able to work and make a difference in the midst of challenging issues including housing crisis, climate change and economic recovery.

In what ways have you been involved with Taituarā so far? 

I have loved being a member of Taituarā over the past two years. I very often refer to the wonderful guides and resources that Taituarā creates – particularly those related to the LTP. In addition, I was lucky enough to complete the LG Accelerated Leadership Programme in 2019, which I found to be one of the most valuable learning and development opportunity’s I have had to date. The quality of the coaching and course was first class and I have developed authentic leadership skills that have made a difference in my role. 

As mentioned above, I am also a member of Rotorua Lakes Council’s Taituarā Management Challenge team this year. I found the experience -completing the pre-challenge task, taking part in a mock-challenge and then completing the challenge day down in Wellington- to be a valuable learning and development opportunity. The final challenge day down in Wellington was a great opportunity to meet other teams from across New Zealand, and to learn and develop new skills. While I am quickly working my way through Taituarā learning and events I hope in future to continue to be involved in all the benefits that Taituarā membership provides.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy about living in Rotorua? 

While everyone is well aware of Rotorua being home to New Zealand’s best mountain biking and beautiful lakes, what many people may not be so familiar with is some of the amazing local businesses. I am a foodie and Rotorua has some of the best places to eat I have found across the world. El Mexicano Zapata has better Mexican food than Mexico and you cannot dine here without experiencing their jalapeño margarita. As a Coeliac I often find it difficult to find great places to eat that I can trust, and so the Factory Smoke House and Grill is top of my list. The whole menu is gluten free, but you would never know! The owners travelled across the United States to master the art of BBQ and grilling. Bringing home to Rotorua some of the best burgers and sides, I have encountered. Aside from the amazing food vendors in Rotorua, the community focused businesses - many of which are not-for-profit - are doing amazing work in bringing people together and providing social support for our communities. From food in schools to support for grandparents as parents and dressing our people for interviews there are some amazing organisations and people with big hearts choosing to invest and operate in Rotorua. 

Finally, as someone who loves nature, fresh air and my animals, I am part of the rural community. In Rotorua, the rural community is strong and supportive and I love being a part of such a great network. My neighbours have become close friends and I enjoy living in a place where we help each other out and share resources such as firewood, fresh eggs and produce from the garden.