Time to take a ‘people first’ approach

"I believe it’s imminently doable to address the social issues if we pause and take a ‘people first’ approach, which this place has always been good at."

Liz Pennington - Pennington Consulting

Liz Pennington almost cried walking through the city centre when she returned to Rotorua after almost 10 years living away.

“Because I come from a mental health background, it was a big shock to walk down the main street and see people who were intoxicated, others clearly unwell and those living with an experience of homelessness. Where we are opening our doors and welcoming people we need to look at this and ask ourselves what we are able to do as a community and collective of people.”

Liz is a mental health and wellness consultant who moved back to Rotorua with her husband earlier this year. She has 15 years’ experience in a raft of CE roles and has worked in both the public sector and with non-governmental organisations. She has also been a social development manager for Ministry of Social Development (MSD), a community development manager and health and disabilities manager. Her past work included working alongside local iwi representatives and Council in Tauranga, where she was part of co-leading the creation and development of a social service village.

“I love community development advisory work and I’m really glad I’m back because I think the sorts of things that I can do are really needed here and can support my community. I think there’s a real opportunity to make a contribution to this community and that’s what makes me want to be here because I see the need and I believe there are things we can do.”

Interestingly, Liz is spending approximately half her time working locally and half of her time with clients from other parts of the country. Liz is busy running workshops, consulting locally and facilitating coaching here in Rotorua. In her view, the solution to some of our city’s issues is quite simple.

“I believe it’s imminently doable to address the social issues if we together take a ‘people first’ approach, which this community and its people has always been good at. Investment into pastoral care is important and MSD and all the partnering organisations have a place at the table to ensure people who are in emergency housing are getting their full and correct entitlement and the range of support they and their families need.”

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