Thought Leadership Speakers

Helen Atkins – Atkins Julyan

Helen Atkins is one of the founding partners of the boutique environment and public law firm, Atkins Holm Majurey.  Helen has worked for a number of years for a variety of private and public sector clients on a range of environmental, local government and public law matters including in relation to all aspects of water management.

Helen provides extensive services to Water New Zealand on more generally on water services issues including on a range of matters in the local government, environmental and resource management areas.

Helen has served on a number of decision-making panels in relation to Local Government and Resource Management Act matters.

Helen is currently the Past President of Water New Zealand and the Chair of MOTAT (the Museum of Transport and Technology).

She also holds a governance role on a private sector theatre company.


Mark Baker-Jones – Ngāpuhi Ngāruahine, Climate Policy and Regulation

Mark Baker-Jones is a leading expert and adviser on climate change policy and regulation.

He has extensive experience in both Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, where he has worked with governments, businesses, and academic institutions on various aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation.  He was a political adviser to NZ’s Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, during the development of the country’s climate change legislative regime.


Petra Carey – Russell McVeagh

Within a broad competition and regulatory practice, Petra specialises in infrastructure regulation. Petra is currently advising clients on the design of the regulatory frameworks for the proposed water service entities, including transfer of assets and liabilities, powers and duties, pricing and charging, and stormwater management.  For the economic regulation proposals, Petra’s advice is drawing on her experience advising airports and energy companies on the establishment and implementation of regulation under Part 4 of the Commerce Act.


Tim Chambers – University of Otago

Tim is a Fulbright Scholar (Harvard University) and a Senior Research Fellow in the Health, Environment and Infection Research Unit at the University of Otago, Wellington. His research interests include environmental health and infectious diseases. Tim’s current research investigates the potential health burden of drinking water contamination, with a focus on nitrate contamination. Tim has also contributed to the Covid-19 response through his work on digital contact tracing for multiple Government agencies.


Dene Cook – Fletcher Building

Dene is the Technical Manager for the concrete division of Fletcher Building a group that includes Golden Bay, Firth, Humes and Winstones aggregates. Dene is also the chair of Concrete New Zealand, a concrete industry association which includes all facets of the concrete industry from designers to cement manufacturers. Dene is a Chartered Professional Engineer and a Fellow of Engineers NZ. He has severed on many concrete related NZ Standards. Dene led the development of Firths EPD for Ready Mixed concrete and has a keen interest in sustainable design, being a member of the SESOC sustainability group.


Eugene Doyle – Community Organiser

Eugene Doyle is a community organiser in Wellington.  He has been at the forefront of a campaign to fight ongoing contamination of the Ōwhiro Stream and Taputeranga Marine Reserve.  He is a member of Wellington City Council’s Environmental Reference Group and Utilities Disputes Limited Water Advisory Committee.  He is a founder and convenor of both 4C – Coastal Communities and Climate Change and the Wellington Residents Association Network. In 2023 Eugene launched Te Hononga Ki Te Upoko – Wellington’s Catchments Collective, which brings together groups within the wider Wellington area.  He has worked closely with Wellington Water to improve community access to data and community engagement in the oversight of stormwater networks and their impact on the environment.


Rawiri Faulkner – Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira

Rawiri is currently Pou Toa Matarau at Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira. He is responsible for the strategic, cultural and environmental mahi of the organisation. Rawiri is a qualified planned and experienced hearing commissioner. Rawiri has worked in the private and public sector, most recently in the Management Team of the Te Aranga Alliance. Rawiri will share his experience working in partnership with the government to deliver great community outcomes.


Dr Kerry Griffith – Infrastructure Sustainability Council

Kerry Griffiths is the IS Technical Director at the Infrastructure Sustainability Council (ISC), a member-based, purpose-led peak body working to enable sustainability outcomes in infrastructure – through the IS Rating Scheme, capacity building, thought leadership and advocacy. Kerry leads the delivery of the ISC’s technical workplan and continuous improvement programme.

Kerry is well versed in infrastructure sustainability and has many years of experience in this field, having worked as a Technical Director Sustainability at AECOM and URS. She has extensive experience in sustainability assessment and performance management, and has been instrumental in delivery of positive sustainability outcomes on several iconic infrastructure projects in Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2019, Kerry completed her PhD on how to enhance sustainability outcomes using sustainability rating tools in infrastructure.


Ken Macdonald – Tonkin + Taylor

Ken Macdonald is Tonkin + Taylor’s Sector Director for Water. He is a business leader and consultant who has over 35 years’ experience working with a wide range of public and private sector organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand, the UK, the European Union and the Pacific Islands.

Ken began his career working as a water quality chemist for local authorities and water entities in Scotland before moving into series of regulatory roles and then into consultancy, working with large-scale industrial facilities on water efficiency, environmental management, impact assessment and legal compliance.

Over the last 20 years he has achieved success in the dynamic three waters sector, both internationally and here in Aotearoa New Zealand. His work delivering asset management and improvement programmes for water authorities in the UK has given him a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that water reforms will bring in New Zealand.

He is passionate about working with organisations and communities to deliver better environmental, social, cultural and public health outcomes through improving the ways in which we think about and manage our water resources.

He is a Chartered Water and Environmental Manager, a Chartered Chemist and a Certified Programme Management Practitioner.


Kahurangi Malcom – Puna Awarau

Kahurangi is from Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua and Te Waiariki, born and raised in Waiuku. She is the Managing Director of Puna Awarau, a Māori owned consultancy working at the forefront of indigenous procurement in Aotearoa. Her mahi revolves around ensuring Māori outcomes are achieved through procurement. Kahurangi holds a Bachelor of Science and Master’s in Business Administration and completed her research on Māori Economic Development. She’s spent the last 10 years working across different parts of economic development including employment initiatives on Marae, business growth advisory and social procurement. Kahurangi was schooled in total immersion Māori at Te Raki o Pukekohe and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Waiuku and has two sons; Kaiwhare and Rehua who are also schooled in total immersion Māori.


Georgina Mills – Ofwat

Georgina has been a Director at Ofwat, the economic regulator for water and wastewater in England and Wales, for the past 10 years. She has taken a career break from Ofwat to spend time with family in New Zealand and to support the Commerce Commission as it establishes itself as the new economic regulator for water in New Zealand. During her 10 years at Ofwat, Georgina has led the design and implementation of price and service quality regulation and has also led Ofwat’s work in relation to the business retail water market, which opened in 2017. Prior to this she led work to reform the legislative framework for airport regulation and worked at the UK’s competition regulator. She is an economist by training and has been a member of the UK’s Government Economic Service since 2003.


Nicole McLellan – Stantec US

Nicole is a water treatment process specialist with over 15 years of experience related to water quality and treatment in research, international non-profits, government, post-secondary education, and consulting industries. Her areas of expertise comprise water treatment optimization; regulatory compliance; process performance demonstrations; energy optimization; control of algae blooms and emerging contaminants; scientific study designs; and wastewater disinfection. Over the last 5 years, Nicole has completed more than five (5) Comprehensive Performance Evaluations at municipal and industrial facilities serving populations ranging from 36 homes to >500,000 residences where the scope has included reviews of water treatment capacity and performance, design redundancy, climate change preparedness, regulatory and disinfection compliance, and assessments for the management of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) to inform implementation plans and constructability risk assessments. She enjoys facilitating solving complex water problems and doing what is right. As a member of the Stantec Institute for Water, Technology and Policy, Nicole led her team to develop a state-of-the-science understanding of numerous CECs in water and proceeded to develop a novel framework for understanding their management through water treatment to identify potential gaps for water managers. In her spare time, Nicole can be found with her spouse chasing after two young kids and their dog.


Rod Naylor – Global Water Leader GHD

Rod Naylor is an accomplished water industry and infrastructure professional with over 30 years’ experience in the water and environmental industries in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA in both the publica and private sectors. Rod holds an Honours Degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. He is a Chartered Engineer and NPER as a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, a Chartered Engineer with the Engineering Council UK and a member of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, as well as a Graduate of the Institute of Company Directors Australia.


Barbara Nebel – thinkstep-anz

Barbara’s passion is to enable organisations to succeed sustainably. She often describes her job as a translator, translating sustainability into traditional business language. Together with her team, she delivers a full range of sustainability services from strategy and materiality assessments through to detailed Life Cycle Assessments and Cradle to Cradle® projects. Barbara has worked with organisations in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Europe, effectively linking sustainability with business value.

The founder and first president of the Life Cycle Association New Zealand (LCANZ), Barbara initiated the Australasian EPD Programme. She is a member of the Technical Advisory Group for International EPD system and on the Steering Group for the Climate Leaders Coalition. Barbara is a Certified LCA Practitioner, and an associate editor for the International Journal of LCA. Barbara is also a judge of the Banksia Sustainability Awards. She also sits on the Executive Commitee of the German New Zealand Chamber of Commerce.


Andrew Pearson – Tonkin + Taylor

Andrew Pearson is a senior consultant at Tonkin +Taylor specializing in risk assessment, exposure and toxicology. From a career in both central government and consultancy Andrew has worked on a broad range of issues relating to identifying and modelling environmental contamination and assessing the risk to human health. Andrew has put his experience leading human health risk assessments to use in a range of New Zealand projects, including in more recent years authoring catchment risk assessments and source water risk management plans. Andrew has also led the development of international guidelines for rapid risk assessment, international contaminant standards for New Zealand seafood exports and is currently on the Joint WHO/FAO exposure assessment expert roster.

In the first years of the New Zealand emergence of PFAS Andrew played a central role to the all-of-government response, providing dietary risk assessment and engagement with affected residents near contaminated sites and developing guidance for freshwater and marine food gathering. Andrew also led research activities to quantify PFAS levels in the New Zealand diet. Andrew maintains an active work programme supporting clients on PFAS risk, with a recent focus around the growing challenges PFAS presents as a contaminant of concern for circular economies.


Lara Taylor Kaiwhakahaere  – E Oho! Awakening Aotearoa

Lara’s whakapapa is to Ngāti Tahu, Tūhourangi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera, and Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku. She is passionate about Māori rights and interests, particularly related to Te Ao Tūroa (the natural world). Her career has involved Māori planning and strategy at Auckland Council, Māori research at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, and advisory and governance roles for hapū and iwi. She is a Komiti Member on the national Māori planner’s forum Papa Pounamu, associated with the New Zealand Planning Institute. Lara has recently established her own business, E Oho! Awakening Aotearoa which specialises in holistic, multiscalar and integrated policy, planning and strategy regarding natural resource governance and management. Lara leads and engages in projects across three of the National Science Challenges (Sustainable Seas, Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, and Our Land and Water), collaborating with mana whenua from across the motu, and local and central government.

Lara’s drive and commitment to Kaupapa Māori comes from her whakapapa and a sense of obligation and respect for Papatūānuku, our taiao, and our communities. Lara believes that our climate is changing quicker than most of us realise, and that transformative philosophical and behavioural change is urgently needed. Time is running out for society to stand up and say no to the status quo! Our hard and soft water infrastructure, colonised and colonising institutions, policies and practices are not fit for purpose in a rapidly evolving world. An equitable, well-designed, Tiriti-based system that puts Papatūānuku first, and celebrates and utilises mātauranga-a-iwihapū/Māori and other knowledge systems and regenerative ethics of care that restore balance, health and wellbeing is our best bet on changing the current national and global trajectory from degradation and collapse, to one of hope and resilience for all (people, place, ngā taonga tuku iho) now and for future generations. Lara seeks to invoke deep contemplation about our individual and collective responsibilities and potentialities, and to contribute towards mobilising action for Aotearoa.


Chris Thurston

Chris Thurston is the Head of Sustainability for Watercare and leads the integration of sustainability values into the company. This includes an ambition for leadership and action in climate change with the following targets:

  •  Net zero 2050
  • 50% reduction in operational emissions by 2030
  • 40% reduction in construction related emissions by/from 2025
  •  15% reduction in per capita water consumption by 2025

Watercare has a strong focus on reducing whole of life emissions through the infrastructure process. In 2020 the Enterprise Model was launched, a collaborative infrastructure delivery model with key partners to deliver the ‘40/20/20 build better infrastructure’ vision. This vision sets targets to reduce emissions within infrastructure by 40% whilst also reducing cost by 20% and improving healthy safety and wellbeing outcomes by 20% every year. To achieve this we have teamed up with partners in strategic planning, design and construction who are all fully on board.

Chris comes from a background with a wide range of sustainability focus having worked across New Zealand and the United Kingdom in private and Government roles. His specialty in greenhouse gas management has evolved into energy efficiency, renewables and integrated water management. His passion for collaborative approaches has been displayed working across ethical supply chain management and by working for the New Zealand Government on innovative public-private partnerships. He is Vice Chair of the WaterNZ Climate Change Special Interest Group, Committee member for the Water Services Association of Australia Liveable Communities Committee and external advisor to the Local Government Funding Agency Sustainability Committee.

Chris is passionate about the water industry and the leadership role it can have in creating a sustainable future. We have a great opportunity and will also face some of the largest challenges so its imperative that action is taken urgently. Chris looks forward to meeting fellow professionals that are passionate about our future at the water conference.

Sarah Robinson – Stantec

Sarah is Stantec’s Advisory Rep for Water in Aotearoa New Zealand. She has over 8 years’ experience in the water industry—in Aotearoa and as Business Planning & Strategy Manager for the largest water company in the UK. Sarah is passionate about sharing the learnings and knowledge she gained working in the economically regulated UK water industry. She relishes the challenge of bringing disparate information together to build integrated and prioritised business plans in a regulatory environment.

Sarah’s UK experience spans the preparation of an £11.7B five-year investment plan on behalf of Thames Water for OFWAT, and the successful implementation of an annual business planning process and system to support the creation of future investment plans. Now, Sarah provides support and advice to clients across the motu, helping them advance their strategy and planning maturity journey as they prepare for reform.

Mark Trembath – WaterAid Australia

Mark has been an active participant in the water sector for almost 20 years through employment and volunteering. Mark has worked for Veolia, Xylem, Interflow and has worked across Australia, NZ, SE Asia including India. Mark has also volunteered for AWA and is a past state president, ASTT & WaterAid. Since August 2022 Mark has taken up a fulltime position inside WaterAid as corporate partnership manager.



Priya Thurai – Watercare

Priya Thurai, the Head of Customer Insights at Watercare, brings over 20 years of experience in various industries, including Energy, FMCG, Telecommunications, and the water sector. As the manager of Watercare’s water efficiency portfolio, she is deeply committed to promoting sustainable water practices and advancing water literacy in communities. Over the past five years, Priya has led initiatives to enhance customer engagement, co-design water literacy experiences, drive efficiency efforts, and increase public awareness about the water sector. With unwavering dedication, she strives to achieve greater water efficiency in Auckland, making a positive impact on people and the environment.