By Helen Martin
Following the retirement of Dianne Kidd from the position, Erica McKenzie has been appointed as the new Chair of the Helensville District Health Trust.
Erica comes to the role with many years’ experience in health and community initiatives, including Teacher in Charge of Health and Manager of the Student Health and Support Centre at Kaipara College, Chair of the Helensville Family Centre Trust and Trustee of the Helensville District Health Trust. She works as a WDHB Coordinator of Health Promoting Schools (HPS) and is a member of the national HPS Advisory Group.
Erica was born in Wellington and moved here 34 years ago with her Helensville-born husband Andrew after they met at Massey University in Palmerston North. At the time Erica played representative netball and tennis and Andrew played representative rugby. Erica’s holiday jobs were often in orchards so establishing a kiwi fruit orchard in Rimmer Road was a comfortable move. “Kiwi fruit take a while to get established so for a quick return we planted buttercup squash,” says Erica, “and for a time we were exporting container loads of it.” When times were tough in the late 1980s, with rural bank loan interest rates spiralling, Erica and Andrew survived by diversifying.
Then Erica and Andrew, now with a young family, bought their farm in Inland Road to farm in partnership with their neighbours, Andrew’s parents Donald and Alison. While Andrew concentrated on growing sheep and beef, Erica put her Bachelor of Education and Teaching Diploma to good use at Kaipara College, employed first as a PE teacher, eventually as a Dean and Head of Faculty. These days, mother to Kate, Hilary and Scott and grandmother to Jock, William and George, she juggles the WDHB job with her farm role, much of which is involves strategic planning and administration.
Adding the voluntary position of Chair of the Health Trust to her workload is a challenge Erica relishes. “Taking over the Chair role is a big commitment, but one I’m really enthusiastic about. The Trust has expertise and experience and works with a great team of staff. And exciting things are happening. For example, Te Whare Orangaô Parakai provides the perfect opportunity to strengthen our vision of being the healthiest rural community in New Zealand. There are so many strands to it, including the monthly harvest market, training courses and social enterprise community development initiatives. Our long established relationship with Ngati Whatua Nga Rima is a valuable partnership, as is the Waitemata DHB relationship. The Health Trust will continue to provide quality facilities and collaborate with others for positive health and wellbeing outcomes and, while we have issues that come with being a rural town, that makes us who we are. The people involved are passionate about what they’re doing and together our goal is to build on community strengths.”
Erica’s appointment brings with it a satisfying sense of continuity, as it was her mother-in-law Alison McKenzie who, along with retiring Chair Dianne Kidd and others, initiated formation of the Health Trust in 1989. “I am very excited to be part of it,” Erica says. “We live in a great community and I love it here.”