After six years at the helm of Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Karen Vercoe (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Makino, Te Arawa) will leave the organisation in April to take up an exciting role with Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs as its Deputy Chief Executive | Māori, Strategy and Performance.
Trust Chairman, Geoff Rolleston, says Ms Vercoe’s departure will be keenly felt across not only Te Arawa Lakes Trust, but the wider iwi, whose wellbeing and prosperity have been her primary focus and driving force, particularly in recent years.
“While there is an element of sadness to Karen’s departure, her new role will see her make a meaningful contribution to Te Tari Taiwhenua, and in turn, positively impact the mahi it does with and for Māori.”
Ms Vercoe has been an invaluable asset to Te Arawa Lakes Trust, undeniably helping to improve the lives of whānau across the rohe, Mr Rolleston says.
“In her time leading the Trust, Karen has grown the team from two employees to more than 100, growing its environmental contracts immeasurably to support our mandated mahi through our lakes settlement. In doing so, she has created dozens of jobs for whānau across Te Arawa rohe.
“In addition, she has led other kaupapa to help drive better social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes for Māori, including establishing Te Arawa COVID Hub, while also actively enabling the development of Te Arawa Climate Change Strategy,” Mr Rolleston says.
Ms Vercoe’s existing and previous roles have centred around honouring obligations to hapū, iwi and Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the advancement of Māori across business, development, health and other areas.
She says she will treasure her time at the Trust and is incredibly proud of the mahi her team does across the rohe.
“It has not been an easy decision to leave the organisation that I feel so passionate about, but I know our incredible team will continue to carry out the Trust’s crucial mahi, protecting our wai, whenua and whānau, now and into the future.”
Ms Vercoe received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2021 for services to Sport and Governance and was awarded the Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award in 2016.
In 2020 she was selected for the Common Purpose global leadership programme and in 2018, one of 25 Māori women selected for the Australia New Zealand Indigenous Women’s Business Network.
Ms Vercoe is a current board member for Sport NZ, and was the elected Chairperson of Te Pūmautanga o Te Arawa and Data Iwi Leaders Forum.
Ms Vercoe is a double international, representing Aoteaora in touch and in rugby for the Black Ferns in 1996.