Hamilton City, New Zealand

Jennifer Nickel

Over the last 3 years I’ve been your representative for Hamilton on the Waikato Regional Council, and have made responding to climate change a priority.
I have a Masters in Genetics and Grad Dip in sustainability, and career in research and environmental management. I love working with people.

I love being a Councillor because I want to improve society by increasing the wellbeing of people and our environment. The most pressing long-term issue is for us to respond to climate change (lowering emissions and adapting), and work to make our economy fairer and more resilient in a fast-changing world. At present the best way I see to do that is to continue to serve as a Waikato Regional Councillor and I am grateful to my family for providing me with the space to do so.

I feel I have done well to serve Hamilton and the greater Waikato region over the past 3-year term, and now that I am more experienced in local government, very well acquainted with the upcoming reforms as well as having made many more connections in the community who support me, I believe I can be even more efficient and effective in a second term.

For Waikato Regional Council to better serve Hamilton (things in our control) I believe the most important issue is for us to work with HCC to provide much better and more innovative public transport services both within the city and inter-regionally (e.g. bus, van, rail). Expanding the Flex on-demand bus service putting on more 15-minute frequency buses for popular routes (both initiatives which have been really popular). I want public transport in Hamilton to be so good that many people in our community can seriously consider not needing to own a car (and all the associated costs that come with it, easing cost of living) to get around to their most important places.

For Hamilton City Council I would say the most important issues include better infrastructure investments to enable low-carbon lifestyles (e.g. 20-minute city concept where all your essential services like access to groceries, doctors, etc are nearby where you live) which bring about more of a sense of community villages. This ties in with the need for more affordable housing in these places, and that when new subdivisions are opened that they have better designs than before (e.g. Peacockes).

There are of course many other issues also that need addressing, but the top one is getting our infrastructure right and future-proofed to have resilient communities where people know each other and have reduced costs of living for basic necessities like housing, health, food and connection


There is no doubt that there is massive infrastructure funding that is required nationwide to get three-waters infrastructure up to scratch in various places to comply with regional council environmental policies and rules. It is imperative that the infrastructure upgrades happen as soon as possible to ensure everyone in New Zealand has safe, clean drinking water (no matter where you live) and that rivers and coastlines stop getting degraded with sewage-overflows.

However, the reforms themselves have had a very poor communication rollout, are complicated to understand, and I would advocate (as I have before) that they should go on a temporary hold (while providing some central government funding pools for urgent upgrade projects as a tie-over if needed in certain places) until after we know how local government will be reformed as this impacts the ‘regional representative group’ in the model. The reforms should be in a sensible sequence.

I’m saddened though that it’s been very hard to have good quality debate on the topic in many places nationwide. There are many people who don’t understand the reforms well who have gone out of their way to politicize it and add to the misinformation going around. Ultimately though, Waikato Regional Council does not have much to do with it as the only role of the regional council is to regulate the owner and operators of the three-waters infrastructure (city & district councils) to comply with the issued resource consents.

Waikato Regional Council has had 2 Māori Constituency seats for many years (where those on the Māori roll can vote for candidates for those seats) and I recognise that they have added a lot of value. I can also see how beneficial a good relationship with the many local Iwi has been for the regional council to get things done and for our region as a whole for our shared prosperity and resilience in the future.

The provision of Māori Seats is a legally-determined mechanism for fulfilling the promises made in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which we have been fortunate to have received more training on in this past term at the Waikato Regional Council. There is a very interesting and rich history to New Zealand and once it is well understood from various angles the way things are at the moment make a lot of sense and will likely continue to evolve when based on good reasoning.


The terms co-governance and co-management often get used interchangeably which makes people’s perceptions of what these terms mean confused.

The Waikato River Authority is the Waikato’s most famous example of a co-governance process and works well. This was formed out of a settlement process between the Crown and Waikato Tainui and serves to restore the quality of the Waikato river, which is making progress. One Waikato Regional Councillor gets appointed to the WRA each term which is why this example is also very relevant to ask a Waikato Regional Council candidates about.

Low in trust, as also identified as the top issue by the first report by the Future for Local Government Panel. When I first got onto Council I was so saddened to learn that this was the case as it severely holds back New Zealand’s potential for progress and prosperity.

Central government (of any and all Parties) seems to forget local government in their considerations almost all of the time. When local government is referred to in their documents and directions it’s almost always missing an element (a consideration of our circumstances or funding, or both) that would be important for us and for implementing the direction effectively. This slows down local government work and leads to inefficiencies. As central government controls most of the rules and government funding impacting our lives, and they are very ‘busy’, I believe there is a lot of responsibility on them to take more steps to build trust with local government. I believe local government is always ready, willing and able to be engaged with, from my experience.

There are a few things where I would re-prioritise how HCC is involved with various activities, but I’ll leave it for the HCC candidates to answer as I’m not across the City Council activities as well as them.

My main focus has been to get to know the Waikato Regional Council and how it works. It does many things, which I think confuses things. I look forward to the reform of local government to tidy up some illogical groupings. For example, I am a fan of closing the gap between the Hamilton City influence over public transport infrastructure provision – bus stops and priority lanes – and the Regional Council’s influence over bus services – routes and contracting drivers – because it makes changes / improvements to services much faster to organise. Fortunately, now we’ve given the direction, the Waikato Regional Council is currently discussing with the city and other district councils as to how we could best do this.

I believe a big reason is that local government elections are run via a postal voting system (when was the last time you sent a physical letter?) rather than a large much-talked about in-person event with ballot boxes and fanfare. I also believe that local government gets such poor media attention (compared to central government) that most people don’t know much about it or don’t get to know the real stories of what goes on in an engaging way.

There is an onus on councillors to make themselves and their views accessible to people but support and resources to do this are lacking, so it tends to be quite ad-hoc based on people’s abilities and priorities rather than a given.

I currently live just north of Hamilton, but before that I have spent many years living in Hamilton East, Hillcrest and Pukete. Hamilton is my happy place that I know well and feel comfortable talking about and representing.

I’ve known other effective Hamilton City Councillors who have lived just outside the boundary. Hence, I don’t think it’s vital to do the job well if that’s where your heart is. But I do think it is important to live at least very close to the area you represent.

I used to think so, but actually it depends on the personality. I’ve met Councillors (from various councils) who have been in the role for a long time who I believe are hugely ineffective (due to their personality and skills, not due to their views on issues), and others who are very effective and keep learning and evolving as a person (and are very valuable as a source of stories of history as well).

Hence, if the community wants them I don’t think effective councillors should be removed by a blunt rule.

Share This Page