Young Elected Members

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Young Elected Members Committee

At the 2014 LGNZ AGM and Conference, an inaugural meeting of the Young Elected Members’ Network was held.  Initial conversations were had about the possible membership, structure and function of a formally coordinated Young Elected Members network within LGNZ. Following this, the Young Elected Members Committee was formed and is now in operation. 

Who is on the Committee?

  • Aaron Hawkins – Co-Chair & Zone 6 Representative
  • Lan Pham – Co-Chair & Representative
  • Vernon Tava – Zone 1 Representative
  • Vacant – Zone 2 Representative
  • Aleisha Rutherford – Zone 3 Representative
  • Ros Connelly – Zone 4 Representative
  • Alexandra Davids – Zone 5 Representative
  • Craig Watson – Representative

The purpose of the Committee is to: 

1. Provide advice to the LGNZ National Council, including its Governance and Strategy Advisory Group or
    staff on any matter that the National Council or the Committee deems relevant.  This could include, but is
    not limited to:

  • enhancing youth participation in local government processes;
  • building strong relationships between councils, young people and youth organisations;
  • practical matters likely to have specific implications for younger elected members, such as remuneration and professional development; and
  • matters of LGNZ policy, and central government policy and legislation, on which young elected members share a view.

2. Coordinate opportunities for young elected members to:

  • network and exchange ideas;
  • peer mentor and access practical support; and
  • access appropriate professional development.
  • Aaron Hawkins cropped

    Aaron Hawkins

    Co-Chair and Zone 6 Representative

    Councillor, Dunedin City Council

    Aaron is a second term elected member of Dunedin City Council.  He is the Chair of the Community and Culture Committee, and is a certified RMA commissioner hearing Dunedin’s full district plan review.  He chairs the Dunedin Refugee Steering Group and the Creative Dunedin Partnership, forums made up of community representatives and key stakeholders to support successful former refugee resettlement and the city’s arts and culture strategy respectively.  Aaron is the Co-Chair of the LGNZ Young Elected Members’ Committee and is a member of the Governance and Strategy Advisory Group.  He is passionate, and perversely optimistic, about the role local government can play in addressing the two biggest issues our communities face: climate change (by leading the transition to a zero carbon economy) and social inequality (by building stronger and more resilient communities).  Aaron is also interested in preserving our natural and built heritage; community and neighbourhood led decision making; social enterprise as a driver of local economic development; compact cities and creative urban renewal; better public and active transport; and the social and economic value of our creative industries.

    Prior to election, Aaron worked for longer than is advisable at Radio One 91FM, as a presenter and producer of breakfast radio and the ads that paid for it.  He is currently chair of the Dunedin Fringe Arts Trust, through which he has helped establish the NZ Young Writers Festival, and has served on the board of the Blue Oyster Arts Trust.

  • Lan Pham

    Lan Pham

    Co-Chair & Representative

    Councillor, Environment Canterbury Regional Council

    Lan Pham was the highest polling candidate elected to Environment Canterbury Regional Council 2016, following a campaign from the remote Raoul Island in the Kermadecs on prioritizing the health of our people and planet. Her background is in Freshwater Ecology (MSc) and Environmental Law (COP), and it was her introduction to New Zealand’s quirky and unique, but increasingly rare native fish that first got her engaged in environmental issues. She is the founder and Director of Working Waters Trust, a freshwater restoration and education trust which works alongside communities across Canterbury, Otago and Southland to restore the habitats of New Zealand’s most endangered freshwater fish and raise their profile. Lan is passionate about intergenerational issues – placing climate change at the centre of decision making, improving social wellbeing and building resilience into the management of resources. Lan is a member of LGNZ’s Policy Advisory Group and the New Zealand Freshwater Science Society and is a certified Resource Management Act commissioner.

  • Vernon Tava cropped

    Vernon Tava

    Zone 1 Representative

    Member, Waitematā Local Board, Auckland Council

    Vernon Tava is a member of the Waitematā Local Board of Auckland Council.  His Local Board roles include Lead of the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning Portfolio and Transport Portfolio.  He holds a Master of Laws degree (with first class honours in environmental law) from the University of Auckland and works as a business broker.  Vernon is also a regular commentator in mainstream media on political and business affairs.  A keen rider of anything two-wheeled, Vernon is committed to more sustainable towns and cities built for people, not just cars. 

  • Aleisha Rutherford cropped

    Aleisha Rutherford

    Zone 3 Representative

    Councillor, Palmerston North City Council

    First elected in 2013 as Palmerston North's youngest ever city councillor, Aleisha is currently serving her second term.  Aleisha is Chairperson of the Community Development Committee, Deputy Chair of Planning & Strategy, spokesperson for Youth & Students, support spokesperson for Digital & Technology and Rural & Villages. She is a member of all council committees, represents Palmerston North City Council in Zone 3 and is a Resource Management Commissioner.  Aleisha is motivated to bring about change during her time on council and has a keen interest in youth development, increasing diversity of representation, lifting voter turn out and the environment.

  • Ros Connelly

    Ros Connelly

    Zone 4 Representative

    Councillor, Upper Hutt City Council

    Ros Connelly was elected to the Upper Hutt City Council in the 2016 Local Government elections. She is a member of the City Services Committee, and the Policy Committee. Shortly after starting university, Ros became actively involved in student politics. She has served as President of both the Otago University Students’ Association and the New Zealand University Students’ Association and was Chair of Student Job Search Aotearoa. Ros holds a Master of Public Management from Victoria University and works in public administration. Ros is Mum to Fionn and Niamh and has spent a lot of time dedicated to the community level governance of early childcare centres, kid’s sports teams and schools. Ros is passionate about ensuring the sustainable use of our natural resources, promoting women’s leadership and participation in decision making, and creating buildings, services and environments that are inclusive and accessible to all people, including people with disabilities.     

  • Alexandra Davids cropped

    Alexandra Davids

    Zone 5 Representative

    Member, Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board, Christchurch City Council


    Alexandra is a member of the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community Board.  She values strong, thriving and prosperous communities, clean waterways, and ecological and sustainable decision making that always prioritises future generations. After being elected to the Hagley/Ferrymead Community Board in 2013, Alex has become Chair of Keep Christchurch Beautiful, is a trustee of The Graeme Dingle Foundation, a representative on the board of Keep New Zealand Beautiful, Canterbury Neighborhood Support and the Estuary Association along with being the Community Board liaison to several projects and rebuild committees for a variety of community facilities. She has retained a high level of involvement in her ward and across the wider Christchurch area. Alex has always had strong involvement in the youth sector, helping to run youth camps and conferences, predominantly in Canterbury, but also at a national level. She was also a mentor for the Project K programme. Alex believes in having a positive attitude in everything she does and chooses to see perceived problems as challenges that allow opportunities for the creation of extraordinary achievements and outcomes to benefit her community.

  • Craig Watson

    Craig Watson


    Councillor, Selwyn District Council

    Craig is a first term Selwyn District Councillor, from the Selwyn Central Ward, representing Rolleston, West Melton and surrounds.  He is the Deputy Chair of Selwyn District Council’s Audit and Risk Committee.  Craig has been involved in a number of community groups over the last ten years and knew that stepping up to stand for local government was the right decision for him.  He is committed to encouraging, supporting and inspiring younger community members to put their names forward for local government elections.  Selwyn District had three people under the age of 40 put their name forward at the last election, and all three were successfully elected.  However, with financial constraints, public scrutiny and the potential for career stalling, Craig understands the hesitations that many young people feel when considering public office.  Craig is thrilled to have been elected by his peers from around the country to represent them on the Young Elected Members Committee, and is committed to working to make it easier for younger people to take up public office and fulfil their duties while in public office.  Craig is currently appointed to the Area Committee for St John and is organising the inaugural conference for young elected members as well as a large motor festival for the Selwyn District.  He is grateful for an understanding family and a supportive employer!