Meet our team

Our Taituarā team is made up of some pretty amazing people with great skills, keen to help promote innovation and excellence in local government management enabling local government to better serve their local communities.

Karen Thomas

    Chief Executive

Karen has been our Chief Executive since September 2011 and has responsibility for fulfilling Taituarā’s vision to promote and support professional excellence in local government. Over this time she has introduced leadership development for the sector, grown the membership and ensured that guidance and practice advice is updated regularly. Karen has established extensive local government networks overseas and regularly utilises these contacts to the benefit of the New Zealand local government sector.

Karen’s previous roles have included Chief Executive at the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and Regional Assistant Commissioner at the State Services Commission where she led the development of the proposal to establish the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), a world-leading educational institution.

Karen is a Chartered Member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors. She has been on several boards including Refugee Trauma Recovery, AFS Intercultural Programmes where she was the Deputy Chair and she chaired Capital Swim Club Board for four years. She is a Swimming NZ qualified referee, and her other interests include reading and genealogy research.

Raymond Horan

    Chief Advisor

Raymond re-joined Taituarā in June 2014 as Sector Improvement Manager, before commencing his current role as Taituarā's Chief Advisor. He has spent most of the last 20 years in local government related roles, most recently with the Department of Internal Affairs.

He describes his job as two-thirds providing assistance to the local government sector and one-third providing advice to central government on local government matters. His ambition is to help develop a Local Government Act that doesn’t require changes every 18 months. He asks that you wish him well with this task.

Kate Macnaught

    Manager, Sector Improvement

Kate is our Manager, Sector Improvement. Kate is responsible for developing the Well-beings Indicator Project and overseeing the Vote 2019 project as well as other developments in the sector Improvement area for Taituarā.

Kate’s previous roles have included Policy Manager at LGNZ where she worked on Better Local Government Reforms, the Productivity Review on Regulation, as well as other policy areas. Prior to that she was Strategy and Policy Manager at New Plymouth District Council.

Kate came to New Zealand fourteen years ago where she was Regional Head of Business and Enterprise in the Regional Development Agency for the North East of England and Chief Executive of the Northern Business Forum.

Kate has been a Director on several Boards in the UK and set up Excellence North East to run the Business Excellence Assessment Programme using the EFQM Excellence Model.

In her spare time Kate enjoys music, reading and good food.

Ann Thomson

    Manager, Communications and Partnerships

Ann oversees Taituarā's communications, marketing and partnership activities, as well as our major events, the Annual Summit and Gala Dinner & The Marketplace.

Ann is a communications, event management and stakeholder engagement professional with broad experience across sectors including tertiary education and the public sector.

In her spare time Ann enjoys spending time with family and friends, good food, films, music, travel and reading.

James Lord

    Manager, Workforce Leadership

James is our Manager, Workforce Leadership responsible for our workforce leadership programmes. He is excited to be able to bring his extensive stakeholder engagement experience and of developing workforce initiatives and programme development to Taituarā.

James' previous roles include those at Be Collective where he led a social enterprise providing innovative software to community groups and other volunteering involving organisation in New Zealand. Prior to this he held a management role with Careerforce (the ITO for the wider health and wellbeing sectors) where he led the development of the Kaimanaaki Workforce Strategy for the wider social and community workforce, supporting positive outcomes for New Zealanders.

Nō Ngāpuhi me Ingarangi ōku tupuna, I whanau mai ahau I Whāngarei, kei Kāpiti ahau e noho ana. A proud Northlander, James is on a journey of better understanding his tūpuna and whakapapa. Now living on the Kāpiti Coast with his wife and their two dogs, he enjoys exploring local running trails and craft breweries (generally in that order).

Rebecca Moore

    Manager, Finance and Administration

Bex is our Manager, Finance and Administration and brings with her over 12 years of experience working in similar financial and administrative roles.

Her background is in the implementation of financial accounting systems, the development of business processes, and establishing quality business analytics and monthly reporting.

Bex has a passion for facts and figures and enjoys to providing seamless financial support to the Taituarā team.

Kevin Lavery

    General Manager, Sector Consulting

Kevin led our work on the local government response to Covid-19. He is now working on the water reform agenda. Kevin was the Chief Executive of Wellington City Council for 7 years and prior to that had CEO roles in England with Cornwall Council, an amalgamation of seven councils, and the City of Newcastle upon Tyne. Kevin also spent 13 years in the private sector, including a spell at Price Waterhouse Consulting. He also set up a successful tech start-up and ran a number of large divisions of FTSE 100 companies.

Kevin is married to Catherine and they have two teenage sons, Daniel and Jack. He spends his leisure time walking their two dogs, watching movies, playing masters football and mountain biking.

Jenny Spencer

    Senior Advisor, Workforce Leadership

Jenny is excited to join the team at Taituarā having previously worked in local government at Masterton District Council.

Her background is in Human Resources, with experience in central and local government as well as the private sector. More recently Jenny has shared her skills as a volunteer with Volunteer Service Abroad in Papua New Guinea and Tonga, an experience that has inspired her to want to continue to make a difference in local communities. Jenny is passionate about leadership and it’s importance for building strong organisations that have people at their heart.

Outside of work Jenny loves walking and getting out and about with her husband in the Wellington area, as well as sharing the company of good friends.

Jane Wilson

    Instructional Designer

Jane is our Instructional Designer. Her background is in learning and development where she has held a number of roles in the government sector, including time as a self-employed contractor. Jane is passionate about instructional design, particularly in the digital e-learning space, and enjoys exploring new concepts and ways of doing things to engage learners.

In her spare time Jane is busy providing a taxi service for her two teenagers! She also enjoys interior design and walking her two dogs Delilah and Gypsy.

Susan Haniel

    Senior Advisor, Sector Improvement

Susan is the Senior Advisor for the Sector Improvement team. Her passion is to encourage and promote quality Local Government practices and to see communities flourish.

Susan has a bachelor’s degree in commerce and administration and has completed resource management law study at Victoria University. Since graduating she has spent six years in committee advisory roles, most recently in Democratic Services at Hutt City Council. Before pursuing her degree, she worked in the health sector as a registered comprehensive nurse and as Team Leader in a coronary care unit.

Her personal interests include trapping pests with her local “Predator Free” group, playing the guitar and travelling to interesting destinations.

Amy Waugh

    Senior Advisor, Public Relations and Communications

Amy joined Taituarā in July 2018 having recently returned to her hometown after spending the last decade working in marketing roles around New Zealand and a four year stint in Melbourne.

Her experience spans time working across a wide range of industries in both private and public sectors. Amy enjoys working in the ever-changing field of marketing and is enjoying transforming Taituarā’s marketing and communications to be more digitally-focused.

Outside of work Amy loves spending time with friends and family, travelling, going for walks and getting brunch at her favourite café - a good latte is a must!

Mubashir Mukhtar

    Data Scientist

Mubashir joined Taituarā in September 2018 as our Data Scientist. Prior to working at Taituarā, Mubashir was working as a Research & Monitoring Advisor at Ashburton District Council.

Mubashir’s role at Taituarā is to support the Sector Improvement Team on the data side. Currently, his main focus is on developing local government community wellbeing indicators, along with a comprehensive data warehouse and reporting dashboards to be shared with the sector.

Outside of work, Mubashir enjoys exploring Wellington with family, learning more about data science, and doing community work.

Eilidh Siller

    Advisor, Workforce Leadership

Eilidh joined Taituarā in March 2019, as part of the Workforce Leadership team. Originally from Scotland, Eilidh has lived in Wellington for over two years and spent almost six months prior to that travelling around South East Asia.

Recently, Eilidh has moved into the Communications Team and has taken on the Taituarā Events portfolio. Previously Eilidh worked in the travel industry in a marketing role which enabled her to gain experience in brand management, developing strategies and building strong relationships with people from all over the world.

Outside of work, Eilidh enjoys eating out, movies and exploring New Zealand.

Benjamin Swale

    Advisor, Brand and Channels Management

Ben joined Taituarā in November 2020 and is responsible for maintaining our website and social media as well as compiling email newsletters and other publications.

Ben has previously worked in language education, tourism and cultural events management. He is currently studying public sector communication in his spare time and has been excited to discover just how much of a difference local government makes to the lives of all New Zealanders.

His interests include doing conservation work, classical music, China, exploring new places, keeping fit and spending time in the outdoors.

Lauren Hourigan

    Administrator, Membership and Events

Lauren joined Taituarā as the Administrator, Membership and Events when she moved from Greater Wellington Regional Council in November 2020.

Previously she worked for Accor Hotels before going on to gain a bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Resource Management & Employment Relations from Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington. Lauren's passionate about productivity and believes that people are at the heart of everything we do.

Outside of work, Lauren loves travelling with friends and family, reading and spending time with her animals.

Victoria Sidaway

    Administrator, Accounts and Systems

Victoria is our new Administrator, Accounts and Systems. She is responsible for administrating the LGJobs vacancy board and the Discussion Groups, as well as providing general administrative support to the wider team.

Victoria’s background is in providing reception duties and administrative support within the financial services industry. She is passionate about providing superb customer service and seamless support to the sector.

In her spare time she loves spending time with friends and family, going for weekend getaways and adventures to explore our wonderful country.