At the 2016 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.
When Kerry Prendergast entered politics with the Tawa Borough Council she saw it as a stepping stone to parliament. But the immediacy of local representation and the chance to give back to the community in tangible ways sparked a 24 year career in local government.
For her commitment to local government she has been awarded the EXCELLENCE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government.
Ms Prendergast joined the Borough Council in 1986 before being elected to Wellington City Council in 1989 where she remained for nearly 20 years (including three terms as mayor), and gave her time to the wider sector as vice president of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).
Ms Prendergast says it was almost inevitable she would go into local government – her father was on the Tawa Borough Council long before she was – and once she made the step she was totally absorbed.
“You get to meet so many people and you get to give back,” she says.
“Giving back was one of the values instilled in me as a child, particularly from my father. I was always raised to believe you should give back to your community.
“In local government it is very immediate. You can make policy that can be implemented straight away and you get to work with the community on a daily basis.”
Among council achievements under her leadership was establishing the city’s identity as “Creative Wellington – Innovation Capital”, the effects of which can be seen today as the capital continues to attract creative and technology companies and workers.
“It was not only to market the city to Wellingtonians but also to visitors,” she says.
“It was about understanding what you could do as a city, and promoting economic entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly in small and medium enterprises – growing the economy. Basically I was an ambassador and advocate for the city.”
The Creative Wellington brand helped identify Wellington as an events and cultural capital.
Among other achievements from her time as a councillor and mayor Ms Prendergast cites securing $220 million from the Helen Clark government for social housing in Wellington, creating the waterfront boulevard of trees from the stadium to the Michael Fowler Centre, adding 20 sculptures to the city, and working to have the ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie built, as particularly proud achievements.
Ms Prendergast says everyone who enters local politics does so with a passion, which was certainly true of her.
LGNZ president Lawrence Yule says Kerry Prendergast’s contribution has been significant, and she is still giving back in her capacity as board member or trustee for a range of organisations including New Zealand Community Trust and Motu, the SPCA, as chair of Tourism New Zealand and the Environmental Protection Authority and – keeping it local – Wellington Free Ambulance.
“Kerry has been a stalwart of Wellington and through her hard work over a long period helped define how the city would be seen by locals and visitors alike,” Mr Yule says.
Ms Prendergast was vice president of LGNZ and a trustee of the Joe Aspell Trust during her time as mayor. She was a director of Wellington International Airport and the Wellington Region Association of Midwives until 2010. She is an honorary life member of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society and of Plunket. In the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to local body affairs.
This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.